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Blinkist – can you read books faster?

New update to app that wants you to read books faster

Price: Free (IAPs)
Version: 4.5
Size: 122 MB
Developer: Blink Labs
Platform: iPhone and iPad

Blinkist operates on the premise that the world’s smartest people are that smart because they’ve been reading a whole bunch of great books. The problem is – they’ve been doing it for years! How could you possibly hope to catch up? The answer, supposedly, is Blinkist – the app that distills bestselling nonfiction books into 15-minute reads or listens.

The free tier gives you one free book per day, but the full selection is over 2000

The idea is that these books can be broken down into – ‘blinks’ – not dissimilar to chapters in a book. The app uses experts in various fields to pull out the most relevant or strongest points in a book, and rewrite them into bite-size bits of text. On the surface, you really do get the feeling you’ve learned something. But then, the alternative might have been to not read the book at all. In reality, it’s a tough sell – and it’s why this app focuses on non-fiction, where there’s no narrative cohesion to miss out on.

Each book is condensed into a series of ‘blinks’

The selection available is relatively huge – and the amount you’ll save will be significant. However, the app operates on a subscription basis working out at around $5 (£5) a month. Choosing premium will charge you $60 (£60)right off the bat though, which is a hefty chunk of change to part with in one transaction. There is a ‘Plus’ tier for just over $3 (£3) a month (or a one-off transaction of $40 (£40), which gives you unlimited access to over 2000 titles – just like Premium – but without their audio counterparts, and other syncing options.

Books can either be read or listened to in bite-size chunks

There is a free tier, but it’s largely been constricted to the point that you won’t get any long-term use out of it. There’s a daily free title, and if you think you won’t have time to skim more than one title a day then you might be fine. The problem is, the subjects are so varied – from psychology to politics to relationships – meaning the subject matter is dictated to you. To really get the most out of the app, you have to subscribe.

You can add books to your library to pick up later

But is it worth it? The entire experience has been honed as the app arrives at version 4.5. Users can enjoy an audio option – so the blinks are read out like an audiobook or podcast. They can be downloaded too. This is an easy way to make it through tons and tons of books, while the text versions are relatively painless too. Elsewhere, with Premium, you can send blinks to Kindle to read later and sync across devices, and you can also send highlights to Evernote. If you find a particularly inspiring point – it’s easy then to find it later.

Now that the app has grown to contain thousands of titles, the developers have also added a significant feature – curation. It’s something numerous apps try to do from the off, and usually, it’s better if it arrives naturally once the material is there. These curated lists vary from that week’s New York Times bestsellers to a selected list from a featured author and are one of the apps strongest features.

The curated lists are one of the app’s strongest features

There’s plenty here for first time users, and with its development schedule, there’s plenty to maintain value for subscribers. But do you really learn everything it promises? Based on the blinks we made our way through, we’d say it’s a tough call. You’ll be given coffee conversation or prove to be a knowledgeable individual in the bar, but in reality, the app is essentially saying you can disregard 300+ pages from any non-fiction book. That’s just plain not true.

If you want a sense of what a book is trying to say, then give Blinkist a shot – but if you really want to go deep and use the material to develop your knowledge or learn new skills then you have to read the book. For some, this might be how they use Blinkist – to get a taste of the material before buying. But do you really want to spend either $40 or $60 a year to figure out which books you should read?