Blinkist: How to keep up with all you want to read
by Rachel Stern Views: 343
How many books are there in your library that are totally untouched?
There was a growing number of titles for four university friends and voracious readers who once shared notes with each other, but stopped due to time pressures after they graduated.
To keep up with their reading, and give other time-pressed book lovers an option to delve into many titles, they founded Blinkist in 2012, a Berlin-based book summary website, app and podcast that compresses key nonfiction book insights into “Blinks” that take 20 minutes to read.
Below Blinkist’s Head of Content Ben Hughs explains how Blinks highlight books and the advantages of power reading and listening, and why the condensed format doesn’t quite work for fiction.
Rachel Stern: I noticed a lot titles on your list, and read “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” It was on my reading list, and probably would have taken me 2 weeks to read it, but I got through the ‘Blink’ in less than 20 minutes. I’m wondering who the writers of these summaries are, and how you go about writing and developing them?
Ben: That’s a good question; the process is something that we’re pretty proud of actually. We’ve got an internal content team of around 10 people who first of all scan the nonfiction market looking for books that we believe would be useful and valuable for our readers, and when we identify such a book, a freelance expert then creates the summary with our help – we have a network of terrific freelance experts.
Composing the actual blinks starts on a conceptual level, by trying to figure out, “What are the key insights from this book? What does the author want the reader to take away from this book?” And then we think, “OK, how would be back up these insights? What real life examples can we use to make them more memorable?”
These examples are really important to us, because one of the principles behind the blinks-format is that tangible, real-life examples and anecdotes are the things that stick in your mind after reading..
Rachel: What are the big advantages of power reading, or power listening?
Ben: Of course, one big advantage is that it saves a lot of time. We say that using Blinkist, it takes about 15 minutes to get the key insights of a book. So if you have a half hour commute, it would already enable you to get the key insights from 20 books a week. So it really enables you to learn and read at a much higher volume.
It’s also quite a risk-free way of getting to know books. I guess everyone knows this feeling of having spent hours reading a book and then after finishing thinking “Hmm, that was not quite what I was expecting.”
With Blinkist, you can invest just a bit of time to get to know the key insights of the book, and then if you want to go deeper, can continue to read the actual book, knowing that it’s exactly what you’re looking for. So it can also work as a sort of a teaser or an appetizer of the book itself.
Rachel: Is there any disadvantage of just seeing the summary of a book, versus delving into the whole book?
Ben: For sure. I mean, let’s face it, a 15-minute book-in-blinks is no substitute for a multi-hundred-page book. So while we strive to provide those key insights, we also encourage readers to read the underlying book if they want to delve deeper into the topic and get more examples.
Rachel: Do you think that fiction books could ever work under your current model?
Ben: Good question. At the moment, we have no plans to expand into fiction. I think that when people read a fiction book, they want a gripping narrative and complex, multifaceted characters. And condensing those aspects into key insights would be quite tricky without losing the essence of why people read fiction. Never say never, but it’s nothing we’re considering at the moment.
Rachel: What are Blinkist’s future plans, both for expansion and new ideas that it’s bringing to the content?
Ben: We’re growing rapidly and constantly developing new ways to bring relevant knowledge from books to people. For example, we’ve experimented with a podcast where we delve into topics from our blinks, and it has been received very well. Also, we’ve launched a biweekly online publication called “The Blinkist Magazine,” where every issue explores a certain theme like “The Future,” using content from our library.
Rachel: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us, Ben. Is there anything you’d like to add?
Ben: I’d definitely recommend everyone to give Blinkist a try, even if you don’t consider yourself an avid reader. There’s a free trial, so you can just scan through our library and pick something to read. Maybe choose a topic you wouldn’t usually read about? That’s one of my favorite things about Blinkist: it’s so easy to stumble onto something completely new and inspiring.
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