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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Blinkist review: Is the future of reading books.. not reading books?

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With the growing popularity of ebooks, apps like Blinkist have made reading much easier, but could it come at a cost?

Over the past few years, ebooks have become increasingly more popular. Kindle devices and iBooks apps helped catalyse the growth of the digital reading format. ebooks are frequently compared to physical books, with some preferring the former for its convenience, and others, the latter for its authentic experience.

With the introduction of audiobooks, ebooks then took on a more digital format with the introduction of audiobooks. The format was popularised by Amazon’s Audible service, which offered audiobooks in a monthly subscription. The audio experience was attractive as it appealed to people’s inability to sit down for long uninterrupted durations to read a book.

The Blinkist app adapts to our decreasing attention span even further. 

Blinkist summarises books into short snippets that can be read within just a few minutes – shaving away hours of reading time. Users are also given the option to listen to summaries on the go, combining their benefits with audio playback.

This review will offer insights on how the app works and the pros and cons of reading through Blinkist.

How does Blinkist work?

Blinkist summarises long books into short summaries. These are then split alongside a few swipe-able pages referred to as Blinks. Essentially, each chapter is often summarised into one Blink.

Human narrators provide audio playback, so listening to summaries through Blinkist feels similar to an audiobook, though it can be done in significantly less time. While an audiobook may take hours to read, most blinks on the app can be listened to in about 15 minutes.

As a result, Blinkist promises to provide “more knowledge in less time”. But is the claim valid?

How effective is Blinkist?

Based on our experience with the app, blinks capture enough information from a book, providing value in just a few minutes.

As a result, you can get the book’s key messages without having to dive into detail. This allows you to read a few books in the same time it would have taken you to read just one.

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Blinkist is also beneficial for people who want to read but haven’t found the time or built the habit. It’s a lot easier to get into the habit of reading for 15 minutes a day than committing to a whole book in one sitting, which may sometimes feel daunting. 

Another benefit of Blinkist is that readers don’t have to take notes as often with Blinks as they would with a regular book since the app provides a summary in the first place.

Best of all, Blinkist seamlessly combines reading with listening, allowing readers (or listeners) to select whichever format works best for them at any given time. 

All these are combined with goodies already present in ebooks, such as synced reading positions and notes, quick lookup within the app, and more.

What are its shortcomings?

Despite the benefits of Blinkist, it still faces criticism for not wholly capturing the message of the books.

Blinks miss out on points expressed within a book that couldn’t be included in the summary. If an author thought that someone could summarise the value of their book in a fraction of the original size, then they’d have written a much shorter book in the first place.

Additionally, these summaries skip right through the author’s personality, making every book sound the same.

It’s not just the personality, though; Blinks rely on the interpretation of the app’s editors. Their perspective may be different to yours, and you may not capture the same key messages that you would’ve if you had read the book directly.

On top of that, we often learn by repetition. Blinkist’s nature avoids that by only showing a summary of the messages once. On the other hand, books repeat the same key messages throughout the book, making it more likely for the information to stick with us.

How much does Blinkist cost?

Blinkist is free to download, allowing users to read a daily pick for free. However, to access Blinkist’s 4700+ books, you’ll need a subscription to Blinkist Premium. This will cost $60 per year, which is just over QAR 200.

Promo codes can be found online, often reducing the price by 20%. Blinkist is currently running a promotion to offer Premium at 40% off, making the subscription cost a little under QAR 150 now.

Even at full price, Blinkist is a great deal. Most books cost about $10-15, whether that’s a paperback, ebook, or audiobook. At $60, Blinkist is the price of 4 books a year.

Quite surprisingly, Blinkist doesn’t pay authors when someone reads their books. This controversial decision is explained on the Blinkist website:

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“Our Blinks are concise and compelling, but necessarily limited by their format. Think of them as a robust movie trailer for books. Full length books offer more in-depth discussion, rich examples, references, and explanations that Blinks can’t fit. Which is why we offer an easy way for customers to find, buy and listen to the full audiobook on Blinkist.”

Essentially, Blinkist claims to provide authors with exposure, comparing their Blinks to movie trailers. However, the language used on the homepage is entirely different: “Understand books & podcasts in 15 minutes”.

Author Oren Jay expressing his concerns on Twitter

As expected, authors are generally unhappy with Blinkist. 

They feel their work is ripped off due to legal loopholes, and some say that seeing their work “summed up in a couple of words is humiliating”. Others have praised the platform for providing exposure to their books and making learning more accessible, with some authors even partnering with the service to promote their books on launch day.

So is Blinkist worth it?

The ability to read and listen to books in one subscription is excellent. Swapping between the two is seamless, allowing us to read the start of a book, then listen to the end of it.

Blinkist also offers full audiobooks at a discounted rate if you want to dive deeper into a book.

If you’re someone that already reads books frequently, then you’re probably better off continuing to do that. However, if like many of us, you’ve been trying to read books but just couldn’t commit, then we recommend you give Blinkist a shot.

You can begin by reading the free daily pick. If you like the experience, then you can start a free trial before paying for the service.

What are your thoughts on Blinkist – and digital book summaries in general? Is a concise summary enough for you, or would you rather read the entire book? Let us know in the comments.


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