Blinkist Book Summaries Arrive to Improve Your Commute And Make You Look Smart

Do you own a copy of The Lean Startup? Have you actually read it, or is it in your bedroom or ebook reader, barely touched? This is where Berlin-based startup Blinkist comes in. Aimed squarely at people who are time-poor and knowledge-hungry, they provide summaries of non-fiction books in ‘blinks’, and are launching their product internationally today.

The idea is that you can absorb knowledge on the go, catching up on key insights of books you haven’t had time to read, with each point being summarised in one ‘blink’ that can be read in under two minutes. Each book is condensed by a writer not an algorithm, and should take no more than 15 minutes to read the whole thing, so it’s quite a convenient app for the commute.

Previously only active in Germany, Switzerland and Austria since their app launch in January, Blinkist is rolling out globally today, with a particular focus on the US. They have also just released a new version of the iOS app, and a complementary web app. The next two months are key for Blinkist, as they are aiming to close a round of funding in December (investors as yet undisclosed) and to use that funding to grow their content, user base, and partnerships with publishers. Currently they are funded by Deutsche Telekom’s incubator hub:raum, plus a pool of angel investors. It works on a freemium model, in which you get one month of free access to their library, and after that you pay $4.99/month, or extend your free access by getting friends to sign up.

The app is likely to attract criticism from purists who believe that only reading summaries is ‘cheating’, but they tell me they aren’t looking to replace books, rather they have the opposite in mind, as a at the very beginning of an interesting journey for the user, just like Neil deGrasse Tyson talks of triggering interest in order to ‘set a learning path into motion that becomes self-driven’. So your 15 minutes spent reading the summary might well be what encourages you to buy the book itself.

A key differentiator is that Blinkist was designed with mobile in mind, as their CEO and co-founder Holger Seim explains. They also place a lot of value on design, which is clear as soon as you start playing with the app. Beautiful UX is doubly important because they are not the only service offering summaries: there is the imaginatively titled Business Book Summaries, but at $10 per summary or a year’s subscription for $225 the offer is less attractive, and the selection tends to be a little more staid. Blinkist offers much talked about reads such as Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, and Noam Chomsky’s Rogue States. At the moment, around 20 books are being added to the Blinkist library each month, and this amount is set to increase significantly over the next few months.

In terms of user base, the Blinkist app is proving popular with two key groups: busy entrepreneurs who want an overview of popular books, and avid readers who may read as many as 60 books per year, Seim explains. Whether the freemium model will work for Blinkist remains to be seen, but Seim is optimistic, noting that they are experiencing good conversion rates and high interest so far.