Book summaries have been around for decades.
There have been book companies and websites whose entire job is to make books or articles to summarize the most popular books. In school, I remember services like Cliffnotes and SparkNotes, which used to be huge for people in English class who wanted summaries of assigned books so they didn’t have to actually read them.
Nowadays, we have a few new entrants into the field that specialize in self help and business content only. There is free content on social media and blogs that summarizes books. YouTube channels like Fight Mediocrity summarize books with animated videos. Blogs, like this one, provide free text summaries of books. There are paid apps, like Blinkist, that offer a large library of 2000+ text and audio book summaries on a phone app.
This is my affiliate link, which means that I get a small commission at no extra cost to you if you stick with it after a free trial: dreamlifelab.org/blinkist
My Experience With Book Summaries
Here’s a quick background on my experience in the self help book industry. I read every day through print books and audio books. I love it. I have read over 100+ books in the self-help, nonfiction, business, wealth-creation, and fitness/peak performance in the last year.
My opinion on book summaries is probably something you can relate to.
Some books turn out to suck and are big disappointments. They look good based on the cover, but it turns out that the big points could have been summarized in a few sentences or paragraphs at most. The authors clearly added fluff to waste our times to make the book look thicker.
There’s a lot of possible reasons for this. Some authors want to add fluff content to make their book look thicker. There’s an incentive for people to have the title of “published author” nowadays and the barrier to entry of writing a book has lowered. That has lead to a flood of books being published every year. This sometimes leads to people wasting time reading fluffy, useless content written by the authors who waste time writing fluff content.
Other books are literally gold. There’s so much incredible advice in there that you can’t put it down. In fact, it’s difficult to summarize because it’s already really concise. Good to Great is a great business book that’s an example. You’d be a fool to think that you can summarize that book in 2 pages and get all the juice you get from reading the whole thing multiple times through.
Are Book Summaries Useful? The Truth
Book summary companies are often in the game of making money. They’re incentivized to tell you that book summaries are the holy grail. If I had to choose between the guy who’s read 1000+ book summaries and the guy who has deeply studied a solid selection of 100 books, I’d choose the latter.
Summaries have their place. It’s great for the books that have gold nuggets of value but spend way too long repeating the same information in multiple forms. However, I usually can’t determine if a book is a winner or a fluff book until reading at least 20% of it. I’m always on the cautious side. I’d rather be the guy who reads more fluff in case I find that one valuable nugget of information that can change my life versus the guy who accidentally skipped it because he assumed the rest of the book was bad.
I would suggest using a book summary if one of the following are true:
- the book is a fairly light read without too many crucial details (like The Iliad, biography, or a technical how-to book)
- I hear mixed reviews about the books, and I want to see if it’s worth reading
- a book isn’t high priority, and I want a good, quick summary
- if I need a quick refresher on the top tips about the book because I need that info soon
You should read the entirety of a great books and take notes, not use a book summary since those details are vital to the story. That said, great books are diamonds, tough to find.
A great technique for finding out what type of book you’re looking at is through the table of contents. It doesn’t always work but sometimes it helps you skip the “read at least 20% of the book” rule.
For example, let’s take the books The Power of Broke or Getting There. Both, upon examining the table of contents and skimming through the structure, are coffee-table type books. Each section details a specific person and how he or she achieved the financial and lifestyle success they have now. From there, I would learn that I wouldn’t need to read the whole book, just the sections on people I’d be interested in.
These would most likely be people who have achieved a lifestyle I want to achieve or success in an industry that I’m interested in myself. It will cut down my reading time. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the answer is a book summary. In this case, it would simply mean reading the entire section on the people I like, which is probably better (to get more of the juice) than a book summary.
What is Blinkist?
Blinkist is currently the #1 book summary app for the self-development, entrepreneurship, life hacking, biography, fitness, history, and science genres.
It offers an audio book feature in its higher priced option, Blinkist Premium. Almost every book you can think of in the genre is in their library as a summary and more are added daily.
An Honest, Nothing-Held-Back Blinkist Review: What I Like and Don’t
If you prefer watching to reading, here is a video review and demo of Blinkist sharing what I like and don’t about the app:
I have tried Blinkist thoroughly and went through at least 100 book summaries. There’s text summaries (average of 5 to 10 pages) and audio book summaries (that last around 5 minutes at normal speed) on some of the titles.
I have not been paid or endorsed in any way to write this. For any other place you will see a review online, be sure to check the links at the bottom of the page. There’s usually hide an affiliate link. This means that they are getting paid each time someone buys through their link. They are persuaded to say that they like it and it shows because they do nothing but praise the service.
This article won’t be like that. I boldly point to all the clear drawbacks of Blinkist and what I don’t like about. I also am very clear and honest with my affiliate link, which I only put there in the off chance that you still want to try it out for some reason.
I repeat what I said in the last section. Book summaries have their proper place. I would only use it for specific purposes, as mentioned in the bullet points earlier. I just don’t think you can get even close to the full juice for many incredible books with a summary.
Having said that, there’s plenty of books that might fall into a book summary-type situation. These books are usually mediocre in certain ways but good enough to at least peek into. These aren’t high priority books but I heard enough to look into them.
For example, Seth Godin books like Lynchpin. I literally hear about him all the time from everyone in the self-help, business, self-development, and self-improvement niches online. However, is this book really worth reading? From what I’ve heard about the book from everyone, it seems like the whole book can be summarized by the title: “In the modern world, it’s important to be indispensable and irreplaceable at your job.”
Perhaps peeking into a 10 page book summary would be a good way to get more of the juice of the book and see if it’s worth reading. It works because it’s definitely not my #1 priority book to read right now (I’m currently more into career progression and lifestyle business books as those are more immediate in urgency and value).
They have their place but to use ONLY Blinkist or a similar service to read would be a huge issue. I would use it as an optional reading supplement to actually reading print books and/or listening to audiobooks only if you can afford it.
There are some books like I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi that walks through techniques for investing, credit cards, reducing debt, and buying a car on that just cannot be summarized without butchering the point because of the data and numbers. Having said that, it can work decently well for a Seth Godin book.
Blinkist and other book summary services have an incentive to keep expanding its library of books that it summarizes. Each one has the ability to decide whether to value quality of book summaries versus quantity. Many book summary services end up pursuing the latter because they realize that there are thousands of different book genres and more book summaries means more people who might want to buy. Unfortunately, that often means the quality and accuracy of the summaries start to decline as they generate more content.
I checked out the Blinkist hiring page, and they seemed to be looking for a bunch of people to come in to narrate books and/or read books to summarize. Hopefully, they don’t become a content farm and sacrifice quality of summaries too much. I did note that they seemed to make a point on the app and website that they were moving at a very fast-pace to expand its library of books and “grow, grow, grow.” I can’t imagine they’re actually reading the entire books given the rate that they’re adding to the library.
Despite my dislike of the whole “book summary” concept, I have to acknowledge that Blinkist does a good job with some summaries. This includes the summary of the book Business Adventures by John Brookes, Warren Buffett’s favorite business book. I’ve gone through this book cover to cover, and it is a hard book to summarize. You almost have to read the whole thing to summarize it and I thought they did a great job doing so.
It takes about 5 to 10 minutes to go through an entire audio book summary on Blinkist and even faster if you use the 2x or 3x speed. That means that you can get through 50+ books in a day if not more.
I’ve went through over a hundred Blinkist summaries in a couple days and felt overwhelmed. I also didn’t feel like I gained substantial new knowledge. The entire book is summarized in a few short pages, so it’s more concise than a SparkNotes which summarizees each chapter thoroughly. That’s one of the possible problems with a fast overload of information, especially summaries.
How Much Does Blinkist Cost?
Blinkist has two paid options right now. There is the Plus and Premium annual plan. $50 or $80 a year. The cheaper plan is only $4 a month or 13 cents a day, which is an affordable price.
The ability to sync highlights to Evernote or read it through Kindle is a nice touch if you’re a tech geek.
The Main Draw of Blinkist
The important difference between the Plus and the Premium plan is that Premium plan offers access to the audio book library. I’m a listener much more than I am a reader. And I’m really drawn to the idea of being able to speed up audio recordings and listen to as many as I want while driving, shopping, or working out.
A few book summaries impressed me, like The Obstacle Is The Way, since they did a good job of summarizing the book to the point I thought they may have read the whole thing.
Apps Like Blinkist
If you’re looking for alternative apps to Blinkist, there’s a couple main ones that do well and . While there are more than I will list here, the others suck so much that they’re not worth listing.
Try Out Blinkist Here and Get A Special Deal
If you’re still interested in trying it out, please use my affiliate link: dreamlifelab.org/blinkist
The free trial or free version are good ways to dip your toes in the water. And when the most expensive plan is still only a few bucks per month (or 20 cents a day), it’s a low-risk option to test out.
I will get a commission at no extra cost to you if you choose to upgrade to paid program after trying it out through my link.
I sometimes couldn’t help but feel like Blinkist was churning out summaries like a Chinese factory based on their job descriptions page and the rate they were adding new summaries. For some books, this works great.
For other books (mainly biographies or denser material), I firmly believe they can’t be summarized well. There’s little fluff and tons of actionable advice. You can miss substantial points of a good book and only pick up the fluff when you’re skimming it with a summary. I was very familiar with some of the books Blinkist summarized and that was the issue: they missed big points.
Instead, I prefer checking out the books from the library and using the table of contents to jump to my favorite passages or audiobooks. Plus, there’s plenty of comprehensive book summaries online, including animated video summaries.
Having said that, there are benefits to Blinkist:
- If you want a quick refresher on a book you already read, it’s there for you. (I prefer writing my own notes but maybe you don’t have time)
- If you want to test to see if a book is worth the read, it’s a good sneak peek.
- If you believe you can get the main points of a book through a summary, it works great.
- If you prefer audio books to reading and want a summary, this is great.
- If you love self help, peak performance, and business books, Blinkist has the most thorough library of book summaries. Blogs and YouTube videos don’t come closs.
- If you want a much easier, cheaper, and more convenient way of getting the top points of a large amount of books, this may be it.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below to these questions: Why are you considering Blinkist? What’s holding you back? How have your thoughts changed after reading this?
Learn How To 2x Your Speed Reading – Free Crash Course
If you’re a book lover and you don’t have the time to spend weeks taking speed reading courses, I’ve created a video and supporting resource summarizing the top speed reading points for you. You can get it free by clicking the button below:
So is the Blinklist best app for book summaries?
If you must go with a book summary, yes
I have alerting disability and the power of a short summary is that it runs me through highlights and improves my comprehension by better connecting the dots than my reading speed would. To get a book summary lets me run through the highlights in order to get a good clear understanding and then I’ll know if the book is worth dropping down into in hard copy form where I’ll do all the notes in the margins that i need.
That’s true. I do that too sometimes, especially if it’s a thick book, and it helps.
You need a blinkist of your blog… come on man, get to the point.
I’m working on writing better! Thanks for the feedback
We love you will
I love you too Emmer
i wish there was a summary of your review, quite long. couldn’t get through it.
Basically, Blinkist is good for short books and to decide whether to read a book, not for thorough, long books.
This is an amazing review. Thank you very much for your effort, it is much appreciated.
You’re welcome, Marko. Glad you found it useful
Hi, Will! I think these kinds of summaries can be helpful. But we have the responsibility to use these kinds of services in the way we think it is the best. I think your list of priorities when to use summaries is a very good way to deal with it. If you know what you want to learn and understand, you should read a book about it. Or talk to the author of the book. But for the things you are interested in, but you don’t have enough time, it is good to use any kind of summaries. I personally use them for my private interests, because I want to save my mental energy for my professional life.
Yes, they can be a helpful tool when used right. When you don’t think it through, they can be less than ideal
I’m currently considering trying Blinkist but my reason seems not to be mentioned here. Like you, Will, I read a lot—a mix of audio and regular books. I would want the summaries primarily to review books I’ve already read (in addition to the reasons you mention). I find that, especially with audio books which I listen to while driving (I drive a lot), I have trouble finding time to take notes and review all of what I’ve listened to. Some audio books are quite dense with ideas to process. I’m hoping audible book summaries would help solidify my readings and refresh my memory of books read some time ago.
That is a good point. I like reviewing stuff too. In this case, Blinkist may work for your situation.
For me, it’s not worth the price. When I get home, I write down my notes. What I want to highlight in the book may not be what someone else wants to highlight in a summary. I just have different priorities and goals so different things stick out. But it may work well for a higher level reminder.
Sounds good, thanks! I would love to spend a lot of time taking notes and reviewing them but I don’t have a lot of time to work with these days. I do sometimes go through my own notes and/or read summaries by other people, but most of my “reading” time is in the car while driving these days. Audio summaries might be helpful, though it does seem a bit pricey. I would rather be spending more on actual books than the summaries. Still thinking about it.
Another solution would be to Google for book summaries. A lot of blogs, like mine and OKDork and bookstakeaway, are run by personal bloggers who like to write articles summarizing a book they read.
There’s another aspect to Blinkist that I think you should mention – they have predatory billing tactics. I got their app and used the “free” service – or so I thought. I didn’t notice that they billed me $50 last year. Last week, anther $50 charge – which I protested to Blinkist, Google Play and PayPal. It looked like they were trying to bill a 2nd $50 last week, so I closed my Play account – and what happened? They billed my debit card $80! They are refusing to refund the $50 from last week (even though I haven’t even used their free service in a long time). PayPal refunded the $80, but I had to close my debit card and change many passwords to keep them out of my wallet in the future. So, I’m out $100 and had to fight to keep them from sucking all the money they thought they could get out of me. BEWARE!
PS – I have several other online accounts, have had for many years and never had problem like this.
I totally understand how frustrating it is when they don’t tell you it’s an auto-bill after a free trial until you cancel. It can piss customers off when you try to squeeze as much out of them in the short term. Unfortunately, it’s a tactic that all sorts of companies, like meal prep or streaming services, use. I do think it’s rather short-sighted.
I will give them the benefit of the doubt but it does look like they should’ve refunded you.
Same experience here. They offered me a refund though when I complained.
Is it not mildly ironic that this article is quite long?
I don’t think so because I am not trying to summarize anything.
I have an eye disorder which makes it difficult to read books, up to the point where it’s now almost impossible (due to the time it takes). I still have books at home I would love to read. A service like blinkist sounds like a great idea, but would you say its summaries are generally not a valid representation of the full books? Is there a better service?
Why not audiobooks? What makes you think you have to read summaries? My whole philosophy is to say no to shortcuts or fake “magic pills.”
Hi, I can relate to a lot of your points.
In general I need a service that helps me:
– Summarize the books that are average in quality but have something worthy to look at. Blinkist does it well. (but we need to be careful with the overload of information you mentioned above).
– Identify good books and encourage me to read them. This is where Blinkist falls short. I think summary service tend to make good books become so-so because there’s not enough place in a summary to fully present an innovative idea and develop it until the reader sees its value. Even when examples and further explanations are included, we do not know if it is the *right* example we need. What makes me tick may not be as important to the guy who created the summary and vice versa. Unless an idea is very applicable or direct to the point that we are already contemplating about, we tend to skim like this: “This is point 1, this is point 2… ok, done, next!” and hardly remember anything useful afterwards.
Another disadvantage of summary services is that they don’t work well with detailed guide books. You know, the type of books that don’t talk much about general principles but tell us very specifically how to do this or that, for example, how to live like a minimalist and tidying up our house. Summaries simply cannot present necessary steps, tips and instructions and therefore lose their values. In addition, summaries help people see the structure of a book, not how detailed it is. And for guide books, details are key. Two books can have the same general principles but it is the detailed instructions inside them that determine which one is more suitable for us. If we only read summaries instead of looking at excerpts, we don’t know if they are worth buying.
Thanks Trang for commenting. I think you hit on some great points. It’s true that some books simply cannot be summarized no matter how much these services try to convince you. I also think that summary services try to make all books look good rather than identify the good ones for you (or don’t do it well enough for you to see it’s good). I try to provide value in my blog summary/review posts in the ways that you have mentioned Blinkest fails at but who knows if it’s the best solution