December 24, 2015

Review: Blinkist for Curious Readers

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an app I’d wished for for years. It’s Blinkist, and you should try it too. Please. It’s for your own good.

Blinkist summarizes popular nonfiction books down to 15-minute summaries of their key points. Topics range from economics, current events, marketing and communications, motivation and self-improvement, and others. One day I jumped around from social engineering, the rise and fall of Yahoo, and the principles of essentialism.

Like many people, my reading list is far too long. Blinkist summarizes many books on that list so I can take their best lessons right away.

Naturally, as a person with a website who likes something, I’m writing about it. A basic breakdown of the good and bad qualities I’ve found so farm and if you should try it too. This is because I’ve mentioned Blinkist to many people and they always ask for more info. That’s a good sign I should just write a damn review.

The Short Version

If your time is valuable and you don’t want to read this whole post, here’s the short version: Everyone should at least try Blinkist. If you want more productive reading than mindless Internet fluff or the news cycle, this is your best bet.

The biggest sign this app is for you: If you’re dying to read lots of books but can never find the time. I would see great non-fiction titles on a shelf and not know where to start. If that’s you too, get Blinkist. If you’re excited by all these books but just settle on a few specific titles, it may not be for you. There’s a difference between wanting to read all the non-fiction, and liking some non-fiction. If you’re in the first group, Blinkist is a must. If you’re not, it’s worth a shot but many not fit.

Blinkist’s Features

Blinkist’s app is thankfully very simple. You can search through a library of hundreds of nonfiction books by category, new, trending, keywords, or custom collections. Finding new or related content is easy, so expect your “books to read” library to fill up fast. New books let you see a basic summary, people who’d find the book useful (such as philosophy nerds or marketing pros), and their different sections.

The books are split into 10-20 minute-long summaries. Each section has a main point or lesson to it. You can highlight specific passages and review them later, so taking notes is easy. The book’s last section is usually a quick review, action steps you can take, related titles, and a link to buy the whole book if you want more.

When you sign up you get three free days of full features. This includes premium features like:

  • Syncing your book notes to Evernote for fast reference
  • Sending books to a Kindle device
  • Biggest of all, access to the audiobook version of many books.

After your free trial’s up, you have to choose between $50 a year for a regular account, or $80 a month for a premium one.

You read that right: if you really want Blinkist, there’s no long-term free option. While it may cost less than a year of Netflix or Spotify, you need to pay the whole year in advance. So make sure you’re a real Blinkist fan.

With the basic stuff done, let’s get to the good and bad of my Blinkist experience so far.

The Good

  • Effective summaries do isolate main points. Some may be skeptical if Blinkist can really summarize 200-400 page books so well. Don’t worry, it delivers. Its reads are concise, to-the-point, and almost always the major takeaways you’d want the most. It doesn’t sacrifice quality for speed, it has an excellent balance of both.

  • Huge selection of varied and useful topics. Blinkist’s premise would fall apart if it didn’t have a massive, current library. Thankfully there are weekly releases, plus finding new content is easy. Just looking through a category will yield some eye-catching titles. Thankfully you can add them to a “Read Later” section to look at later.

  • Easy to review favorite highlights, especially with Premium. After a while your “finished reading” library can get huge. It’s hard to remember everything you’ve learned from all your books. The Highlights feature makes it easy to refresh your memory and fast. Premium puts them all in an Evernote notebook, which is even more organized and convenient but is just a bonus.

  • Very nice audiobook library for Premium. For me, premium’s best feature is the audiobook option for many books. Quality is great and are still fast listens. This lets you use Blinkist in even more circumstances, like driving or doing boring tasks. Folding laundry was more enjoyable while listening to a summary of Syria’s history. The bigger Blinkist fans like me will see this as a must-have.

  • Good for all devices. Blinkist works well on desktop, tablet and mobile. No matter where you’re reading Blinkist will have you covered.

The Bad

  • Lacks the depth whole books give. The biggest criticism I’ve heard from coworkers is that summaries aren’t as good as the whole book. I totally agree with this. I’ve read both the full and Blinkist version of several books - the full versions always win. They have more detail, give more action steps, and have more examples, studies, and memorable stories. That’s why Blinkist is limited to people who are more idea-hungry in general, not people focused on one or two specific areas. Otherwise the summaries will likely leave them unsatisfied.

  • Not expensive, but not free either. My biggest personal criticism is the lack of a long-term free option. I understand why there isn’t one, as summarizing so many long books isn’t cheap labor. I would still appreciate a free option with some limits, such as daily reading limits or ads between sections. This would mainly be so people have more time to try Blinkist before deciding to pay or not. The three day trial period feels way too short.

  • Some books start sounding similar. Books in a few categories can feel repetitive after some reading. Many motivation and self-help books I’ve read can be boiled down to taking personal responsibility, living by core values, not living by other’s standards, improving your physical health,to-do lists, and sleeping well. This applies to other topics like entrepreneurship and marketing, and likely others. This doesn’t mean Blinkist gets useless overtime. Just that you’ll need to look harder for newer reads.

In Conclusion

My main recommendation at the start is the same: if you’re a naturally curious reader with too much on your reading list, Blinkist is perfect. If your tastes are more selective and in-depth, be cautious before signing up.

Regardles, Blinkist is worth a look for any reading-lover and is a great app. Please check it out!