What is Blinkist
Blinkist is a service that provides summaries of non-fiction books.
It’s got a slick app, allowing you to consume summaries (called “blinks”) in either text or audio format.
When I first started using Blinkist, I was enamored with the idea that it would revolutionize the way I learn by allowing me to consume books in minutes instead of weeks.
After using it for a while, realised that Blinkist was not the learning silver bullet I was hoping for. The lessons behind several hundred pages cannot always be explained in a handful.
I had already paid for a yearly premium subscription so I wasn’t ready to abandon it yet!
Two years on, and Blinkist has not replaced reading books for me. But, it has become a great learning tool that supplements and adds value to my regular reading.
How I use Blinkist to supplement my reading
1. Preview content to decide whether it is worth further reading
I like to have a good idea of what I can expect to learn from a book before committing to reading it. One way to do this is to read a book’s table of contents to get an overview of what topics will be covered.
Using Blinkist I can go one step further since it describes the actual content of the various chapters. This helps me get an even better understanding about the topics that a book covers so that I can decide whether the book is worth digging into properly or not.
2. Address FOMO when abandoning a book
Even when I preview a book and know what to expect, I sometimes still find that I am having to force myself to keep reading. It could be because I am not learning what I expected to learn or simply because I am not enjoying the author’s writing style.
I don’t like to leave things unfinished, so it’s difficult for me to stop reading a book once I’ve already started. I get anxious about missing out on some important information on the remaining pages.
Blinkist helps to address this fear of missing out (FOMO) because it allows me to “complete” the book anyway without spending too much time on it. I get a glimpse of what was coming up and have a better sense of whether I would actually be missing out.
3. Quickly get the key takeaways from instructional books
Distilling the lessons from hundreds of pages into a handful of quick to consume paragraphs and bullet points is Blinkist’s key selling point. However, I’ve found that the effectiveness of this approach depends a lot on the type of book being read.
Non-fiction books, such as biographies, cannot be summarized well. Whilst such books definitely contain learnings, the learnings only make sense given the full context of the characters and their stories.
On the other hand, some non-fiction books are much more structured and instructional. They offer clear, step-by-step, actionable advice organized in an easy to consume manner. Usually, the lessons are concise, and the rest of the book only serves to give examples of these lessons in action.
Summaries of instructional books allow me to get an overview of the main lessons very quickly and dig deeper by reading the specific chapter if I require a deeper understanding.
4. Review learnings from previously read books
Similarly to extracting learnings from unread books, Blinkist is a great way to revisit books I’ve already read. I usually take my own notes when reading books and Blinkist allows me to effectively compare and combine my notes with someone else’s. The Blinkist notes are also more accessible, since they can be listened to in addition to being read.
5. Satisfy my general curiosity
There are certain offbeat topics, like Japanese philosophies or astrophysics, which I find interesting and am curious to learn more about. Whilst being knowledgeable about these topics is great for conversations, it’s unlikely to be applicable to my day-to-day.
I’d love to learn about everything, but I simply do not have time to read all the books in the world and must prioritise those which will benefit me the most.
The good news is that Blinkist can be used to scratch that general knowledge itch since it allows me to get a high-level understanding about any topic in record time.
Of course, as mentioned earlier, true learning and understanding only come when diving deep into a book. But I am not aiming to become a professor of astrophysics any time soon, so the overview is often enough to satisfy my curiosity and allow me to focus my full attention on more relevant books.
6. Find new books to explore
Finally, Blinkist is a great tool for discovery. New books are added regularly and there’s a decent recommendation engine. Whether it’s a new book about a topic I’m already reading into or a book about a completely new topic of interest, there’s always something new to learn.