Midway through my first coffee each morning, I reach forward and grab my iPhone 11. These devices have become an extension of ourselves, our personas and our passions. I sheepishly swipe midway down my phone, open the search bar and type Blinkist.
It’s time for my mini-lesson of the day.
I subscribed to the Blinkist app a few months back, and since then – I have been hooked. It’s a book summary app that gives you (you guessed it!) a summary of non-fiction books. Founded in 2012, the Berlin-based app has around seven million users and provides summaries of more than 2,500 bestselling non-fiction books. These are 15-minute reads – known as blinks. You can either read the blinks or listen to them – which is great for someone like me who doesn’t quite enjoy reading on my cellphone.
The Blinkist app is free for the first seven days and then costs $79.99 per year or $12.99 per month. There’s also a three month subscription and that’s the one I signed up for.
In addition to being an avid reader and writer, I’m also the Founder of Mith Books – an author consultancy service that specialises in the written word. My passion for books morphed from a voracious hobby into a profession. Hobbyists and professionals are motivated by completely different criteria. As someone in the book business, I need to keep abreast of trends, titles and topics in the publishing world.
According to an article by Forbes, the average adult reading speed is 300 words per minute. To put things into context, The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is around 120,000 words and would take the average reader around six hours to read. From writing a book to reading it – the whole process is a rather time-consuming one. In this fast-paced Instagram world, I’ve heard many people bemoan that they don’t have the time to read.
This is the point when I tell them about Blinkist and continue by giving them a lecture on how important it is to feed their brain with something other than their Facebook feed.
The Morning Mini-Lesson Ritual
I’m not a morning person. I need something to slowly kickstart my grumpy mood each day – which is no easy task, I assure you. Many people watch the news, but I can’t handle that much calamity first thing in the morning. I can barely even handle the fact that I am awake. Don’t even think about making conversation with me before my second cup of coffee – unless you have a death wish.
For years, I’ve been looking for something to kickstart my brain into slowly action. I love learning and always have. What better way to start my day than with a mini-lesson? I’ve grown to relish the fifteen-minutes I spend with the app each morning as I learn about a topic that I quite possibly know nothing about – or deepen my knowledge about a subject that I already have interest in.
And despite the fact that I start my day with a ‘blink’ of a new book, I can’t say that it’s replaced or even enhanced my reading experience. For me, it’s the equivalent of asking a friend, “Oh so what’s the book about?” and then getting a rundown of the key points in a coherent and logical manner.
The Blinkist app is perfect for non-fiction reads by academics, professionals and industry experts. Looking for a quick lesson on SEO, angel investing or the history of cotton? Blinkist has got you covered. But for other books with the elusive human element – like Michelle Obama’s Becoming – the content ends up sounding like a Wikipedia article rather than an actual story of someone’s life.
Books – as opposed to other forms of media like radio and video – allow for a certain depth and pace. If you want to re-read a paragraph over and over – you can. If you want to skim through a section you’re not that interested in – there’s no one yakking away till they get to the point that truly interests you. The reader is in complete control of the experience and has the opportunity to relish and digest the content at their own speed and in their own way.
At its heart – a book is an immersive and contemplative experience.
As for the titles offered by the Blinkist app – the content appears to be curated for working professionals and includes categories like: psychology, science, management, leadership and so on. Many of the books are already well-known and have been around for a while. A majority of the titles are by American authors and at times I found the content heavily-skewed and lacking the international perspective that I tend to value in books. This got me wondering if self-published books ever make the cut.
So whilst you’ll still find my sleepy brain reaching out for my iPhone every morning for a mini-lesson – at night the story is different. At night, my brain is wide awake and ready to go on a journey far far away. I reach out for a book and bury myself in it – ready to wholeheartedly immerse myself in a world that the author creates with the magic of the written word.
About the Author
Dipa Sanatani is the Merchant of Stories. She delights in gazing out at the ocean and jumping in. She sees life as one great adventure and is an ardent student of the human experience. She is the author of The Little Light and the Founder of Mith Books. She works in a top secret day job.