Blinkist Speed Reading For The Digital World

Dinakaran Sankaranarayanan


Blinkist  Speed Reading For The Digital World

Have you ever felt that reading books is generally a good habit and you wanting to pursue, but trying to read books or persisting with reading books regularly is tough? With fiction books, reading feels therapeutic because of the world upon which the story revolves around making the reading super interesting and fun. But with non-fiction books where the reading is aimed at getting something out of the book, it becomes challenging.

Why we don’t get into the habit of reading books?

  1. A book may have earned rave reviews and we may have bought it. But then the book does not seem to be interesting but we may have spent money on it. Having invested in a book that is not interesting and not completing it ever would become a mental block of not wanting to try a different book because we paid so much and have not read the first book itself. This is a real challenge and one of the main reason why we get stuck with reading. Kindle and Audible book subscriptions with options to stop reading books that we do not enjoy and move on to new books in some way help to avoid this challenge.

  2. Some books are long and take a lot of time to read and return on investment in terms of time spent on it does not feel justified. With non-fiction books, the ideas may be very interesting for good 40 - 80-page book, but there is a lot of fluff added to it for good 400 pages to make it sell in book stores. Because most readers may have reservations paying for a crisp 80 pages but are fine with paying for 400 pages even if the essence is same.

  3. One of the main reason behind reading non-fiction books is to get something out of it. It may be self-improvement or other interesting ideas that we may want to emulate in our life in some way or the other. While this is not necessarily true with biographies and other similar kinds of books that help us to broaden the knowledge of the subject, we tend to quickly forget the essential good bits that we either loved or wanting to re-visit at a later point of time unless we document it as a summary. And documenting it is more work which we would not invest even if we love the idea.

Blinkist to the rescue - byte size audio and text summary

So Blinkist is a service that helps to read a lot of non-fiction books and addresses some of the problems listed above. The idea is simple. Byte sized book summary in both text and audio form in the form of Blinks that would be anywhere between 10-15 mins that talks about the central idea and other essential critical bits that help to unravel the idea of the book. It is a monthly/yearly subscription and one can listen to as many Blinks based on our interests. It is something like Audible but not reading the entire book for you, but somebody summarising the book for you. Since there is an accompanying text that summarizes the book, one can bookmark interesting ideas and come back later to re-visit.

After using the service for around 2 weeks and having listened to 8 books, here is the list of things that works and does not work for me.

What works?

  1. I like the idea of listening to a lot of interesting ideas from these non-fiction books in a really short span of time and not having to spend a long time going through all the fluff.

  2. Since the time it takes to listen is less, I can listen to it more than once. I have listened for a couple of books twice and it helped to drive the idea well.

  3. Recommendations and Trending Section are good ways to discover new and interesting books that I may have not uncovered otherwise.

  4. Some great books suggested as good reads were not that appealing to me when I listened to the summary. Had I bought the book, I may have got stuck because I would have not completed it and may have not proceeded to buying new books. If some book is not interesting or worth the time, there is not much to lose here since you are not paying for the book, but just the subscription and time spent is not more than 10-15 mins.

  5. Bookmarks are really handy in case if I need to revisit the book and its central idea.

  6. Maybe it is the initial days of buying the service, but I’ve listened to nearly 8 books and some of them are good. Without this service, I may not have listened to these interesting days.

What does not work?

  1. Reality is, this is not equivalent to reading a book. It is someone else reading the book and summarizing the book for you. Quality of the summary is purely dependent on the person who does the summary and what kind of knowledge or context that person has. Some of the interesting ideas may get lost in translation. With a few books, I felt the idea was not summarized well. So it may be a hit or miss. I wished for some books having a longer summary.

  2. Even with non-fiction books, some times the journey is as interesting as the idea. We tend to miss out on the wonderful journey and the context around which the central idea is communicated. Sometimes the summary may kill the soul if not interpreted the way it is meant to be interpreted.

  3. Everyone choosing to read this service and not paying for the authors who put in blood and sweat to write the book feels like kind of cheating. I do not know if the service compensates the authors in any way.

  4. Not carrying the idea discussed in the book for a longer time period may dilute the whole experience and is, therefore, less rewarding. With a longer form of reading, there are enough breaks and we tend to reflect on the reading done through multiple sittings. With this, it is all over in 10 -15 mins. It feels rather incomplete.

So my verdict?

I feel the best way to use the service is to listen to the summary and if the ideas feel interesting and make you curious and wanting to explore further, you may buy the actual book. Use this as a trailer for the book and if the trailer works, go for the actual book.

The service is also pivoting to original content, again in byte sized short summaries. Some of them are even 5-10 min long. They are not any books but ideas.

On whether I would want to use the service regularly, only time can tell. But I feel the service fills a certain void with our habit of reading books. In the new digital age, are books the only way to communicate and assimilate ideas?

There are new forms like podcast and original ideas communicated as 5-10 min audio notes. It should be interesting to see how the service evolves given that it is has been already there for 5+ years, but am getting to hear about it in only 2020. So not so many takers for this service I believe.

Obviously, authors would feel outraged about how their works are being crudely summarized making the ideas worse or the service monetizing their work and serious readers would certainly loathe over this kind of speed, shallow reading. But it is a reality that there are so many good books/ideas that are being churned out and we do not have all the time and money to experience them. And the service perfectly fits that void.