What Is Blinkist?

If you’re reading this, you’ve most probably already heard that there’s a service called Blinkist that offers condensed versions of notable works of non-fiction. To get an idea of why Blinkist is a big deal though, it’s worth zooming out for a while.

The development of writing is widely considered to be among the most important milestones in the history of humanity, allowing people to communicate and thus collaborate on a massive scale, unheard of among any of the other animal species on the planet. Later on, the invention of the printing press in the 15th century opened the doors to the mass-production of books – propelling science, culture and technology to a whole new level.

The variety of new printed works available to the human race has been rising rapidly ever since, but it’s the relatively recent developments in information processing that led to a true book explosion. This is where Blinkist comes in – by offering easy-to-digest versions of popular books, it helps you to better navigate the ever-expanding ocean of human knowledge and wisdom.

There are thousands of book abstracts, or blinks, in the Blinkist library, and new titles are being added all the time. Each blink is structured as a self-contained narrative that can be read in about 15 minutes; it is subdivided into sections for better comprehension, beginning with an intro which gives an idea of what the book is about and “what’s in it for the reader”, and ending with a summary of the book’s key thoughts and pieces of actionable advice.

Blinkist makes sure the abstracts are available in just about any situation by providing several ways to access the content: via a browser-based online service, a mobile app, or even a direct Kindle link.

Blinkist Web Service

Once you create an account with Blinkist, you gain access to the online profile containing your personal library. It has two separate tabs for ongoing and finished reading, where each item is simply a link to the blink with a handy progress indicator at the bottom.

The reading interface has been designed with minimalism in mind, with every detail focused on providing a distraction-free experience. The entire menu has been removed in favour of three buttons: the home link (back to your library), the contents button which open a slide-in overlay with the structure of the current blink, as well as the font size control. Not much, but in reality, that’s all you need to focus entirely on the abstract at hand.

The web service is of course synchronized with the Blinkist mobile app, which allows you to take your reading with you wherever you go. More about this part of the Blinkist offer in the next section.

Blinkist Mobile App

Being the provider of bite-sized bits of knowledge, Blinkist has really made sure that the primary way of consuming such information is as smooth as possible. We’re talking about their mobile app, which covers the (arguably) most popular use cases of Blinkist: reading or listening to blinks on the go – while commuting, walking, or just waiting for a friend to show up in a café.

The app is available (naturally) in both Android and iOS versions; the interface is subdivided into four areas based on the bottom tabs: Discover, Library, Activity, and Profile. The most useful of them is the Library, which lists the blinks you’ve saved into your personal collection. There are filters which allow showing or hiding the blinks is various stages (not started, in progress, finished), with the progress being conveniently hinted by a subtly coloured background bar on each item.

The reading interface is minimalist and distraction-free: the only buttons visible are “back”, “audio”, and “text size”, and even they can be hidden by simply tapping the main text. Swiping right or left flips the page, and the green progress bar at the bottom of the screen conveniently and unobtrusively indicates the current position in the blink.

One of the most useful features of the Blinkist app is the audio versions of the blinks, which allow ingesting them while keeping your eyes and your hands free for other activities – ideal for walking, commuting, jogging, hiking, etc. It should be noted that the audio is only available in the Premium subscription – more on that in the next section.

Blinkist Pricing

The service is built on a freemium model, which means there are both a free version (without an expiration term) as well as paid versions. The former gives you access to one blink per day; the blink is selected automatically, i.e. you don’t get to decide which ones you can read. While useful for acquainting yourself with the service, the free version does not function well as a long-term solution for that same reason. For full access to the entire library of over 2000 book abstracts, you’ll need to get Blinkist Plus.

At a cost of $49.99 per year (which can be reduced to $35 per year for the first year using our exclusive 30% discount), you’ll be able to read any number of blinks at any time you like, as well as unlock passage highlighting (useful for remembering the most interesting places in the blinks you read and getting back to them later). The Plus version also allows storing the blinks locally on your mobile device and reading them without an Internet connection, which is ideal for flights and other transportation modes with low or no network availability.

The Blinkist Premium plan will set you back $79.99 and, in addition to all above mentioned features of Plus, will unlock the full audio versions of all blinks; those can also be stored on your smartphone or tablet for offline listening. Apart from that, you will be able to sync your highlights with your Evernote account and send blinks directly to your Kindle for a more eye-friendly reading experience.

Pros and Cons

In this section we will summarize the advantages of using Blinkist as well as point out certain areas for improvement:

  • Access to condensed summaries of the best non-fiction books gives the opportunity to absorb maximum knowledge and wisdom, flexibly and quickly.
  • Web interface as well as mobile apps for both Android and iOS devices. Possibility to sync the personal blink library into a Kindle.
  • Less expensive than any existing competing service of book abstracts, given the library size and available features.
  • Useful for pre-selecting the books for reading in full as well as acquainting yourself with new ideas, concepts, and facts. Can be synced with an Evernote account.
  • The audio version of the content allows for distraction-free absorption of the abstracts while reducing eye strain.
  • The highlighting feature enables storing specific snippets and retrieving the most important parts of the blinks later on.
  • Possibility to store text and audio versions of blinks in local memory and reading/listening to them later on, regardless of Internet availability.
  • Clean and modern design of both the web and mobile versions of the app; the interface is easy to learn and intuitive to use.
  • While using the mobile app, the library might sometimes need to be refreshed manually (by holding and pulling down on the screen) to stay current with the blinks added from the web interface.
  • It is not yet possible to recommend the blinks you read to other people who use Blinkist directly from within the app (need to share a link instead).

Using Blinkist Effectively

The most important thing to understand with respect to Blinkist is that it is by no means incompatible with reading full books: while it does help eliminate some reading of that type, as we’ll see below, the real power of Blinkist can be unlocked when actually combining it with reading full titles. Let’s look at some ways it can be done:

  • Pre-selecting books: there are countless books out there, and only so much time in each day; this means you will have to be rather picky with what you read if you want to maximize your reading value. Here’s where Blinkist comes in handy – by going through the blinks you can filter out some of the books that aren’t going to be worth your while for various reasons (e.g. too few new ideas, weak arguments, irrelevant or simply uninteresting to you). This can help save massive amounts of money (and time) by helping you pay only for those books which are truly worth it. See the next section of this review for some figures to support this idea.
  • Pre-scanning books: before immersing yourself into a new book, it may often be worth scanning its content to have an overall idea of what the author is trying to say. This strategy has been described in great detail in the 1940 classic by Mortimer J. Adler called “How to Read a Book”. The author argues that is makes sense to approach a new book in steps, going deeper with each iteration; the “pre-reading” phase, or inspectional reading, as Adler calls it, helps absorbing the basics of the book in the most time-efficient manner and deciding whether or not the book is worth a closer inspection. By the way, this book is also available on Blinkist :)
  • Recapping books: another situation where Blinkist can be helpful is reminding yourself the essence of a book you’ve already read a while ago. There are some titles which are so good it’s worth going back to them from time to time and re-incorporating their ideas into your worldview. Otherwise, a certain book can prove more valuable to you as time goes by and outside conditions change – and re-reading a blink of it can help you quickly refresh your memory.

One example of an effective usage strategy for Blinkist is as follows: first, compile a list of books that might be interesting for you to read (e.g. from recommendations or one of those “what famous people read” articles). After that, add the respective blinks to your personal library on Blinkist and go through them in a methodical manner (e.g. 2-3 per week). Make notes after reading each blink, detailing whether it got you interested in the book. When this is done, you’ll have a filtered list of “worth reading” titles which you can now go through in full, by e.g. buying them from Amazon or at your local physical bookstore.

Is It Worth Paying for Blinkist?

This is one of the most frequent questions faced by the new users of the service; each has to answer it for themselves according to own preferences, yet here’s a way to put the cost of the Blinkist Plus subscription into perspective: at $49.99 per year, the annual payment translates into $4.17 per month – which is roughly equivalent to 1 or 2 cups (depending on where you live) of takeaway coffee from your favourite coffeeshop chain; not a high price to pay for access to the repository of condensed knowledge of the human race.

Another way to consider Blinkist pricing is by looking from the perspective of its function of pre-selecting full books. The average price for the most popular Blinkist titles is approximately $11 on Amazon (Kindle e-book versions) – taking into account the tendency that book quality varies and not every single one feels like it was worth your time afterwards, this implies that you can expect to spend $20-$30 per worthy book on average. Blinkist can help reduce this cost several times over, at a fixed price of less than $5 per month, by helping pre-select which books to read in full.

To sum up, the annual billing cycle of the service masks the fact that Blinkist costs no more than two takeaway coffees per month, all the while also saving money by helping to pick full-size books more effectively.

Over to You!

Still having questions about Blinkist or not sure whether it’s worth it? Already using the service and want to share your experiences? Be sure to visit the comment section below, let’s discuss!

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