Speedreading, CliffsNotes, and now Blinkist, are attempts at allowing people to get more out of a book in less time. Instead of sitting down and spending hours reading a book, why not just spend a few minutes getting a summary of it?
While this sounds nice on the surface, it fails to take into account how humans best absorb information.
Internalize, Don’t Memorize
I remember in 7th grade we were supposed to read The Giver. I hated reading so I didn’t read it.
Instead, I went on SparkNotes and read the guide thoroughly. I got a 94% on the test, and did better than nearly all my classmates who actually read the book.
No doubt these summaries work. That said, in the real world we’re not taking tests. We don’t read to get trivia questions right. Rather, we read because it is the single best way to absorb knowledge.
If you ask me what I remember about The Giver, I can’t recall anything beyond the fact that it is some dystopian tale. This does me no good. I didn’t internalize the lessons of the book. I simply memorized a few parts, hoping to get just enough information out of it.
Summaries Don’t Tell the Whole Story
I just finished reading Mastery by Robert Greene. It was superb. There were so many passages that really stood out to me, and it really gave me new perspectives on not only the concept of mastery, but being a twenty-something, apprenticeships, consistency among other topics.
I also used my free-trial of Blinkist to check out a summary of Mastery. Needless to say I didn’t get nearly as much out of it as a book.
Listening is a passive activity. It’s easy for your mind to wander while listening, especially if you’re doing an activity like driving or working while listening to these summaries. Reading on the other hand requires active focus.
Moreover, there were a number of ideas that stood out to me in Mastery that may not stand out to others. Books can’t always be viewed objectively—what we get out of them varies from person to person.
Sites like Blinkist have to appeal to a mass audience, so they aren’t able to pick out every small detail for each individual.
Where are the Classics?
Blinkist is a relatively new business. Therefore, I can’t expect them to have a library as large as Alexandria. That said much of the emphasis on their books appears to be on generic business and self-improvement books.
There are no summaries of the classics. Volumes of philosophy and history are noticeably bereft from the Blinkist collections. This goes back to their focus on mass appeal. Most people are not looking for deep, challenging reads. Instead they want a feel-good self-improvement book.
I expect more to come in the future of these genres, but it is severely lacking at this point.
The Right Way to Use Blinkist
Though I’m critical of the idea of trying to skip the process of actually reading, Blinkist offers an incredible way to save time—but it’s not what you’re thinking.
Instead of using Blinkist to learn more, use it to eliminate books that aren’t valuable.
For example, if you’re on the fence about purchasing a book just listen and read the summaries on Blinkist. You can find out if the book is worth reading instead of initially spending money and time on a book. And if a book is just decent, you will at least get some new ideas out of it.
There are a lot of crappy books out there. Use Blinkist to avoid wasting valuable time on these worthless piles of paper.
I’d also argue that using Blinkist, even for mediocre books, is as good as listening to a podcast. It’s exponentially better than television and time-sucking websites.
Is Blinkist Worth It?
The previous point is something few people think about, because they think more about absorbing loads of information than they do their time. This is a bad mindset to have.
If you are a busy person on the go, with little time to spare reading, then don’t waste it on crappy books. Get Blinkist to target the best books for you, while absorbing any useful information from less than spectacular books.
The cost is quite reasonable, just a few dollars a month for both subscription plans. This is especially valuable if it can save you a lot of time. I also really like the Blinkist Premium, which syncs notes to Evernote and allows you to send the summaries to your Kindle. That’s really convenient!
Personally, I won’t be getting a subscription to Blinkist in the near future. I have enough time to read currently, and I genuinely enjoy reading—not just absorbing information. Additionally, being the proprietor of Masculine Books requires me to read books thoroughly, and not simply to read summaries.
For the go-getter, Blinkist will make an excellent addition to one’s arsenal of learning. If you’re skeptical, they offer a 3-Day trial. That’s what I used and I suggest you do to.