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), 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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 is free and provides the same free trial and subscription rate.
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.