- Blinkist, a Berlin-based startup, offers an app with thousands of nonfiction book summaries (blinks) that you can digest in 15 min.
- Blinks represent unique pieces prepared by Blinkist writers.
- ITKeyMedia met the Blinkist CEO Holger Seim at TechCrunch Disrupt 2019 and discovered the company’s ultimate goal – to create a leading consumer brand for lifelong learners.
John F. Kennedy could read 1,200 words per minute and encouraged his staff personnel to learn speed reading and apply it in their lives. Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd president of the U.S., started with reading two or three words at a time, then stretched that to three or four words, then six to eight words. Eventually, he was able to absorb an entire paragraph or a page at a single glance. If those leaders and many of their followers lived today, they would probably be the huge fans of the app Blinkist.
Read more by reading less.
Founded in 2012 in Berlin, Blinkist offers an app that allows its users to read/listen to the highlights of over 3,000 nonfiction books in 15 minutes. The team uploads 40 new titles each month. Today, the app counts around 13 mln users.
Ask yourself, ‘how many books did I read yesterday?’ None? I read three:
Although I didn’t read those books from actual cover to cover, I found some interesting points that enriched me with new knowledge and ideas.
The easy-to-use app
Blinkist offers thousands of books split into 27 categories, such as:
- Marketing and Sales,
- Sex and Relationship,
- Technology, and the Future, etc.
Text summaries – called “blinks” as blinks of an eye – present around 10 screen-pages of each book and you need to click to proceed to the next one. In turn, the audio version plays through automatically.
Before going directly to the reading part, users are offered to learn what the book is about, who is it for and find brief information about the author himself. The first blink of each book usually answers the question, ‘What is in it for me?’ And, the final blink gives a reader the summary of the book summary.
Reportedly, the text summaries are prepared by professionals in the given category. The Blinkist writers read the whole book carefully highlighting the most important information. Then, based on those insights, they write a completely copycat-free summary presenting the key takeaways in a nutshell.
Despite tech automation consuming new industries, the company’s book summary service stays people-powered. Blinkist has put a great deal of its resources to hire a collection of experts, authors, PhDs, and so on to do the critical work of dissecting a book, picking out its important parts and writing them up in a compelling way.
So far Blinkist provides content in English and German languages.
Today, you will find plenty of Blinkist alternatives such as Instaread, StoryShots, getAbstract, Quiddity, MENAbytes, and others. One of the most recent ones, Scribd “Snapshots”, launched just in the middle of 2019.
‘What’s unique about Snapshots is that they serve as teasers to full-length titles, while also staying true to the authors’ distinct voice and style and remaining consistent with the tone of the full book. For example, we have a Snapshot for Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. The book, written by tech entrepreneur Jaron Lanier, shares ten reasons why social media actually disconnects you from people. In the Snapshot for the book, we describe only three compelling reasons that Lanier presents – all in the same tone and voice of his full work – and make it easy for readers to start the full book when they’ve completed the Snapshot,’ explains Scribd CEO Trip Adler to the Forbes magazine.
According to Holger Seim, CEO and Founder of Blinkist, at the moment, the firm is not afraid of the competitors since they don’t offer anything brand new to the customers. Blinkist is still the first mover when it comes to innovation. They are growing at a much bigger scale and others don’t seem to catch up with them so far. ‘We’re watching our competitors, but we’re much more focused on our customers than on our competitors. We look at what our customers want, how can we bring more value to them. I believe that as long as we keep that focus, we’ll be fine.’
Criticism of Blinkist in the media
While some internet users clearly adore Blinkist and cannot imagine their lives without it (just like our own Founder), others insist that the service sounds like yet another sign of cultural demise. Sian Cain, the books journalist and editor at the Guardian, described the app, ‘After taking Blinkist for a spin, I think it may appeal less to a time-poor, avid reader than a sweating businessman, crouched in a golf course toilet, trying to quickly brush up on his knowledge of politics or astrophysics to impress his boss.’
The Los Angeles Times writer, David L. Ulin also shared his opinion, ‘The point of reading a book is not accumulating information, or at least not that alone. The most essential aspect is the communion between writer and reader. The premise behind Blinkist, however, is the opposite: Reading can be, should be, measured by the efficient uptake of key ideas. Call it the Twitter of books, all those narratives in concise, digestible packages, conveniently consumable and once blinked at, toted up by the app in your “library” of instant reads.’
The Next Web author Callum Booth offered a little sarcastic article, presenting summaries of Lifehacker’s summaries of Blinkist’s book summaries. For instance, Callum compared the reading time of the book He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo and its summaries:
- Book reading time: 2 hours.
- Blinkist reading time: 12 min.
- Lifehacker reading time: 1 min.
- TNW reading time: 10 seconds – ‘Basically, ignore this stupid book and its stupid advice and don’t let men define your worth.’
As Victor Zakhartchenko Managing Partner at FunCubator VC told ITKeyMedia, the summary should serve as a starting point. ‘Summaries can be taken not as reviews, but as trailers. I genuinely believe that trailers will soon break into the book industry. It is they who should catch the readers’ attention in the era of video consumption.’
More than just a book summary service
The Blinkist vision is to build a leading consumer brand for lifelong learning.
As Holger Seim, CEO and Founder at Blinkist shared with ITKeyMedia at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, the company wants to help you to fit more learning into your life. ‘We want to connect you to great ideas, to give you food for thought. The right idea at the right time can unfold in really great ways. So we want to connect great thinkers to great ideas. That’s a broader vision of Blinkist. We started with a format that brings you the key ideas from nonfiction books because, for a lot of people, books are still the Holy grail. But we don’t want to stop there. This year we’ll go on a journey to conquer the Island of lifelong learning. One thing we released already is a partnership with Seth Godin, the best-selling author in the US. We launched an original format where he gives two-minutes insights twice a week.’
As a response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and a part of ‘Staying in, Staying informed’ initiative, Blinkist offers its users a free premium access by April 25, 2020. These include the routine blinks as well as a few audiobooks like Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, and The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud that you can buy with a 30-50% discount. ‘We can’t change what’s happening in the world right now, but we can offer you some distraction in this special time.’