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If you’ve been wanting to read books, but can’t always find the time, a Berlin-based book collection startup called Blinkist thinks it has a solution.

Blinkist, which launched back August, consists of an online website and iPhone app (free) that includes a catalog of non-fiction books, each summarized down to essential chapters, or “blinks”. Individual books can be read in about 15 minutes. The service is similar to the news tracking service Cicra (reviewed here Circa Tracks Your Selected News Stories For You [iPhone] Circa Tracks Your Selected News Stories For You [iPhone] In the age of the Internet, RSS feeds, and informative MUO articles, there's very little time these days to read actual newspapers and even watch say CNN. But keeping up with local, national, and world... Read More ), which presents and updates the major points of important and breaking news stories from around the world for its subscribers.

The Blinkist Catalog

Blinkist’s catalog includes several dozens of hand-picked nonfiction books from a range categories, including popular science, business and career, politics and history, health and happiness and productivity and self-help. Current titles include best-sellers such as David Allen’s Getting Things Done, Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto, Naomi Klein’s No Logo, and Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing.

Blinkist collection

Each book is broken down into the essential and most interesting parts by an actual person. The description for each book includes the length of time it will take read it, who might be interested in reading the book, an author bio, and a link to download the full copy of the book from either the iBooks or eBook.de online stores.

The Blinkist staff also provides themed collections of titles, such as inspiring books, current affairs, what successful leaders read, and editors’ picks.

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For Web & iPhone

The service is optimized for the web and iPhone. Book titles and descriptions can be browsed by categories, and selected books are added to your account, where you keep track of which sections of a book you have completed reading.

Blinkist 3

The font size of books can be adjusted on both the web and mobile platform. Users can highlight passages of books on the iPhone app, similar to how highlighting is done in both the Amazon and iBooks apps Reading Ebooks on the iPad With iBooks & Amazon Kindle [Mac] Reading Ebooks on the iPad With iBooks & Amazon Kindle [Mac] Read More .

Blinkist highlight

Most subscribers will probably use the iPhone app to consume a few bite size sections of a book during a public transit commute or before going to bed. Books can also be read on the iPad via the web app version, though an optimized iPad app with an highlighter would be even better.

An Interesting Concept

Blinkist provides two useful services. For one, it’s a great way to sample books, similar to how Amazon and iBooks provide free sample chapter downloads Preview Free Sample Book Chapters From Amazon & iBooks Preview Free Sample Book Chapters From Amazon & iBooks Read More of all ebook titles. It’s also useful for getting a broad overview of books that you may not have time to read from cover to cover.

Of course, book purists will rightly contend that summary chapters, like CliffNotes, are no a good substitute for reading an entire book. While I found Blinkist’s summary chapters of Klein’s No Logo pretty representative of the author’s thesis and critiques, they don’t capture the richness of the full 480 pages of the book itself. On the other hand, Blinkist summaries could very well inspire readers to want to read more of a book.

Summaries can be shared via Twitter and Facebook, but it might be more interesting for Blinkist members to share comments with other subscribers, similar to how it’s done on the book lovers community site, GoodReads (which we reviewed here Goodreads Reviewed: A Must-Use Site For Any Book Lover Goodreads Reviewed: A Must-Use Site For Any Book Lover If you enjoy reading, and like to use the Internet for finding great new reads, you may well have heard of Goodreads before: This is a superb website hosting a vibrant community of book lovers,... Read More ).

Subscription Rates

Blinklist is a subscription-based service. Registered users get a free seven-day trial period, and an unlimited subscription costs $4.99 per month, or $49.99 yearly. Blinklist says that more than 20 new books are added each month.

The Blinkist iPhone app Preview Free Sample Book Chapters From Amazon & iBooks Preview Free Sample Book Chapters From Amazon & iBooks Read More is free and provides the same free trial and subscription rate.

IPhone 5S 3 colors Mock up

Let us know what you think of Blinkist, and if you find it a useful service for reading parts of books that might otherwise not have the time to read in full.

Have you found this or similar services handy in the past? Let us know whether they cut the mustard or not.

  1. JoeLunchBox
    April 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    I would like to see a little more detail in the book summaries. I don't want to pay for teasers. I agree that many self help books contain a lot of fluff.

  2. Matthew H
    January 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I'm not sure how I feel about this. For me, books are about escapism. About learning. About seeing a worldview being created with the words of the writer.

    Consuming a book in 15 minutes is pretty much the antitheses of this. I don't see how this is any different from reading the Cliff Notes.

    That said, awesome article man. Cheers!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 27, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      Thanks for the feedback, Matthew. I see your point, but Elad also makes a good point that every book doesn't have to be read cover to cover in order to get the most essential information. If a real person actually reads and condenses a book for Blinkist, it may be sufficient for what the reader needs. I think it depends on the book and what they reader needs.

  3. Elad P
    January 26, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Great concept! I have read many books, especially from the business and self-improvement genre, that can be summarized into literally one or two sentences :)
    They would often contain 1 or 2 interesting points and give you a bit of inspiration but it doesn't worth the time of going through the whole book.
    Definitely gonna give Blinkist a try!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 27, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Elad, I totally agree with you on this point. I read most books cover to cover, but I can certainly see how business and self-help books don't always need to a full read. Thanks for your feedback.

  4. shostyscholar
    January 25, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Wow, I don't think I could possibly disagree with the premise of an app more. You get out of reading what you put into it. If you only put 15 minutes into it, you'll get miniscule returns.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      January 28, 2014 at 7:52 pm

      Shostyscholar, as an avid book reader I understand your point, but at the same time I've read entire books only realize that less than a third of the book was actually useful to what I needed to know. Blinkist's version of books won't be useful for all books, especially very long ones, but they can offer an introductory overview of a book that might useful to readers would like to see if a book is worth more than 15 minutes of their time.

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