So what is this thing called Blinkist?
Do you ever look at an awesome book, think it’s way too long and will take forever to read, and then sadly put it back on the shelf? There’s an app for that and today, I’m going to tell you everything there is to know about it.
It’s called Blinkist and the gist of it is this: Their team reads books, pulls out the key insights, and explains them in an easy-to-digest, 15 minute book summary.
Each key insight is called a blink and fits nicely on one page. With the free version of the app you can only read the daily pick. It’s one out of their 1800+ book summaries, and it changes every day.
The paid version comes in two pricing tiers: Blinkist Plus and Blinkist Premium.
For $49.99 (or €49.99, if you’re in Europe) per year, you’ll get access to their entire library of 1800+ summaries, which is growing at 40 books per month. With a Plus subscription, you can highlight important bits and read all your summaries offline.
Blinkist Premium comes with a $79.99 price tag (or €79.99, respectively) and has all the plus features, but adds audio versions, where available (I’m estimating that’s 90%+ of their catalogue). Even better, you can sync all of your highlights to Evernote and send book summaries straight to your Kindle.
On October 26th, 2016, Blinkist launched the biggest update of its app yet with version 4.0.0. They also announced it 5 days later in their magazine (the publication date is 31st of October, though the magazine issues was released on October 4th). If you’ve stumbled across Blinkist before, you might still remember their old logo:
With the re-design, that’s changed. Here’s the new one:
The app logo looks like this:
The white space resembles the outside world, where knowledge abounds, with the green circle reflecting the Blinkist team, working hard on distilling all these complex ideas down to their small, but powerful core, which is represented by the blue drop. A small seed of knowledge for you to consume with little effort, but a big impact!
Before we dive into it in detail, here are the official update notes Blinkist released with the new version on the App Store:
Okay, so how does it work? Let’s cover the basics.
Here’s what you see when you open the app:
The first thing you’ll see is the Blinkist Daily Pick. It’s a set of blinks (a summary), which changes every day. This set is free to view and listen to via the audio feature for all users, even free and Plus subscribers (those usually don’t get audio). You can simply click on it to read the blinks or listen to them, or continue with business as usual.
The first category you’ll notice below that is the “For You” category, which consists of summary suggestions personally assembled for you, based on what you’ve read previously.
By clicking on the little plus sign next to the title of a book, you can instantly add it to your library (a feature that runs through the entire app):
If you scroll down, you’ll discover more specifically assembled categories, like Blinkist’s “Curated lists”, which include staff picks, books centered around special topics (like startup founding stories) and recommended books by famous people, like Bill Gates, Ari Meisel or Arianna Huffington.
Just swipe right to continue browsing through a particular category in this view.
Tap on any of the lists and you’ll be taken to the overview of summaries that’s contained in it, where you can add individual summaries to your library. A check mark indicates you’ve already read a particular set of blinks.
If you go back to the “Discover” screen and keep scrolling to the bottom, you’ll find the “Trending” section of what’s currently popular among the app’s users, to be followed by the “New” section with the most recently added blinks at the very bottom.
Okay, let’s scroll all the way up again. See the two icons in the top right corner? The left one gives you access to your “Quick Links.”
From this view, you can quickly jump to the sections we just learned about, plus a list of all summaries available in audio format, in case you want to find something new to listen to.
Here, you’ll also find a list of all 16 categories of books Blinkist has to offer. Here’s the full list:
- Biography & History
- Politics & Society
- Relationships & Parenting
- Personal Growth & Self-Improvement
- Money & Investments
- Productivity & Time Management
- Motivation & Inspiration
- Marketing & Sales
- Management & Leadership
- Health & Fitness
- Entrepreneurship & Small Business
- Corporate Culture
- Communication & Social Skills
Tap on one of the categories, and you’ll get a similar view to what you have when you’re in a curated list, where you can also add books by hitting the little + symbol on the right.
Alright, let’s back up all the way to the discover view. The second icon, to the right of the “Quick Links” one, lets you search for any book.
With the search bar open, just start typing an author’s name, topic or book title and the results will pop up below it.
Again, you’ll see the plus and check mark symbols on the right for adding books to your library and showing you what you’ve read already, respectively. Tap on the title of a book though, and you’ll be taken to a book’s profile view, where you can learn more about it.
Here, you can read a short paragraph, describing what the book is about.
Scroll down, and you’ll also get some ideas of the target group of the book, called “Who should read this?”, plus a little bit of information about the author.
You’ve probably noticed the two dark blue buttons already, which keep floating on top as you scroll down this profile view. These are your gateway into a world of knowledge 🙂
Enter Audio Mode
Let’s say you’ve decided to listen to this particular summary via audio feature. Tap the listen button, and you’ll be taken into audio mode.
By default, the intro to the summary will start playing automatically, followed by the first blink, then the second, and so on. In case you’ve missed anything, you can always hit one of the 15s-buttons and jump back or ahead 15 seconds.
See the “1.0X” in the bottom right corner? That’s the current playback speed, which you can increase to 1.25X and even 1.5X, if you’re a fast listener.
Also by default, autoplay will be enabled, which keeps playing summary after summary from your library, meaning you can just keep listening if you’re driving, running on the treadmill or cooking. Of course you can turn it off at any time, by tapping on the infinity symbol at the bottom.
If you come across a particularly great bit of wisdom, you can share it by clicking the share button in the top right corner of this view in a message, on Facebook, on Twitter, etc.
Swipe right inside this view, and you’ll be taken to the audio overview, where your queue is located, which is a list of all the book summaries from your library, which are available in audio format, in the order of how they’ll be played next.
Hold down the three line icon on the right of a summary here, and you can re-arrange the list in the order you’d like it to be played.
Tap on the cloud icon next to it to download audio summaries to your phone, so you can save them and listen to them offline.
If you download a few and then enable offline mode by checking the box on the top left, you’ll be left with only the summaries you’ve downloaded and can listen to them even when you don’t have reception or wifi.
Okay, so that’s all nice and dandy, but what about the core feature – you know, reading summaries?
What it’s like to read on Blinkist
Let’s go all the way back to the book’s profile overview and hit the “Read” button, shall we?
The first page (or blink, as it’s called) in a summary is always the same: the “What’s in it for me?” blink. Here’s what it looks like:
This will tell you exactly what you will get out of reading the summary, so you can be sure it’s the right read at the right time. Like all following blinks, this one consists of a big, bold headline, followed by 4-8 short paragraphs of text, which you can continue to read by scrolling down. After you’re finished with a blink, swipe right for the next one! The green line at the bottom indicates your progress within the summary.
Of course you can highlight any part of any blink you’d like to make a note about, remember, or come back to later, by holding your finger down on it, and then selecting the section of the text you want to mark.
You can also copy the text, look up definitions for it, or share it on Facebook or Twitter. But if you press highlight, it’ll be marked in yellow (and saved in your highlights, we’ll get to that).
In addition to sharing bits and pieces of individual blinks, you can also share the key message of a blink (the headline), with a link back to the whole summary, by pressing the share button on top, which is the second one from the left.
The icon on its left with the headphones will take you to the audio summary of this book in audio mode, which we’ve discussed above.
On the right of the share button, you’ll see an icon with an “Aa” symbol. If you’re not happy with the size of the text on your screen, you can tap this to adjust it.
This will give you two sliders, which you can drag left and right to decrease or increase text size, as well as adjust brightness (which triggers the same basic brightness setting as on your phone, at least on iPhone).
You can even change the design of the reader to white text on a black background, if that’s more your thing.
Here’s what that looks like when it’s activated:
Lastly, the bulleted list button in the top right corner takes you to what I call the index view, where you can see a list of all blinks in this particular summary, and jump around them at will.
It usually makes sense to read them in order (which I do 99% of the time), but if you’re pressed for time, just want to learn something specific, or have to check back to look up something, this is useful.
Note: You can also leave right in the middle of a set of blinks, and Blinkist will save your progress. Even if you close the app entirely, you’ll be taken right to where you left off upon opening it again.
As you keep swiping through the blinks, you’ll notice that sometimes, quotes from the book will pop up in between, which is a neat little bonus feature, that’s only available on the phone app.
When you reach the end, the last blink is always called “Final Summary”. It sums up the core message of the book in 3-4 sentences.
Along with it, you’ll usually be given some actionable advice, which is a very simple next step you can take to implement one of the findings from the book into your life straight away.
Keep scrolling down and you’ll reach the “Suggested further reading” section, which gives you a quick overview of a thematically related book, which might make sense for you to read next.
Below that you’ll always find the “Got feedback?” section, which tells you where you can direct your feedback about the content to make sure it reaches Blinkist’s team.
Once you press the “Done” check mark at the bottom of the final summary, you’ll be taken to a big, blue screen. Here you can add the book to your favorites, buy the book on iBooks, suggest it to your friends, or add related books to your library.
If you press the “X” in the top left corner here, you’ll be taken to your very own treasure chest of bite-sized knowledge. Of course I’m talking about…
Your library is most importantly a list of all the blinks you want to read, usually sorted chronologically by when you’ve added them. Here’s what the basic view inside your library looks like:
Notice the light blue bit in the background behind “Bulletproof Diet” here? This is your progress indicator, which shows you how far along you are in each summary, based on how full the bar is:
The equalizer icon in the top left corner here lets you filter your library view.
You can choose which summaries should be displayed in your library: ones you’ve started already and need to finish, ones you haven’t started reading yet, or just the ones you’ve finished. You can also choose to hide all summaries where no audio version is available. Just tap the switches or hit the according checkbox.
On the opposite side of the filter icon, all the way to the right, where it currently says “Last Added”, you can set the sorting mode for your summaries, with a bunch of options, ranging from alphabetically over how much progress you’ve made or when you last opened them all the way to when you’ve added them to your library.
Pro tip: If you tap on the same sorting mode again, it’ll reverse the order, for example from A-Z to Z-A, or from most progress first to least progress first.
Lastly, the button in the top right corner of the library view gives you access to Blinkist’s tagging system. Here you can define your very own list of keywords and tag books with them.
I personally think Blinkist’s categories are solid, which is why I haven’t used this too much, but it might come in handy if you’re trying to keep track of very specific concepts or ideas (for example all blinks mentioning fish-based diets).
With all that taken care of, there’s only one aspect left to look at, which you can access from any non-blink screen by tapping on the human icon on the right side of the blue bar on the bottom, which is…
Your profile view is very simple. It tells you what kind of membership you’re on across the top, along with showing your profile pic (usually pulled from Facebook, if that’s what you used to sign up). This view only has two tabs:
- Your favorites.
- Your highlights.
Your favorites are sorted from A-Z, which you can reverse by tapping on that icon. Your highlights are always sorted alphabetically:
Tap on any title and you’ll see a list of all the highlights you’ve made in that set of blinks, including when you made them, which blink they were from, and a little icon with three dots on it to share them. Tap on one of the highlights directly, and you’ll be taken back to the blinks.
In the top right corner of your profile, you’ll see a gear icon, which you can tap on to go to settings:
What you’ll see here on top is the email address you used to sign up, what kind of membership you’re on, when it expires, as well as have access to your privacy settings and be able to manage (for example cancel) your subscription. Next up are your preferred language – you can choose between German and English (since it’s a Berlin based company) – and a toggle to turn on or off reminders about the new daily pick.
Below that, you’ll see “Sync with Evernote” and “Connect your Kindle,” two features reserved for premium subscribers, which allow you to transfer all of your highlights to Evernote (and thus make them searchable), or connect your Kindle reader to send summaries to it for offline reading.
And that’s it!
What is Blinkist? – Now you know!
Reading book summaries is really what Blinkist is all about. The navigation inside the app is very straightforward, which makes it easy to use.
Finding new gems to read is a matter of seconds, the offline use makes sure you can still read on the go, when cell reception might be bad and the structure helps you remember what you’ve learned.
I hope this article and video helped you understand how Blinkist works and what you can do with the app.
For my detailed review of all the individual features, using the web app, you can go here. This is also where I show you how you can get free days to test the app longer than the initial 3-day free trial.
If you want to go ahead and give Blinkist a spin, I would really appreciate it if you used the button below. It’s my affiliate link and means I will get a commission for recommending Blinkist to you.
If you have any doubts, concerns, confusions or unanswered questions, don’t hesitate to shoot them my way, I’ll be glad to answer them as best as I can and help you make up your mind.
And if you’re not sure whether Blinkist is for you, just read some summaries on Four Minute Books to get a feel for what the app can do for you.
Thank you for being here. Enjoy and keep reading!