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Blinkist review

  • Post category:Book reviews
  • Reading time:20 mins read

Bottom line up-front: the Blinkist-format doesn’t work for me. The Blinks try to convey emotions through storytelling and by building up tension; before releasing it with the last sentence in which they present the key take-aways. This is not what I need.

I was looking for a short form / summary which helps me decide on whether or not a certain book is indeed worthwhile the n-hundred pages that it presents itself on. The way I see Blinkist’s approach, however, is that they want to give people the resources to pretend that they have read the “classics” — all in convenient 15-20 minutes, because who has ti- … did you just see that squirrel in front of the window? So cute!


After first giving some context, I focus on two parts: the content (the summaries and how they’re presented) and the app interface.

The context will read similar to any other reviewer, I just felt like I had to include it as only presenting the content-critique looked too dry and harsh. Hence, if you’re here on a quest to collect different opinions on the Blinkist content — to then make up your own mind — you better jump right to the “Content” part below.

Note, for this review, I assume you already know about Blinkist. If not, then this is not the review you are looking for. How did you make it so far into this post?


Alright, how and why did I test the Blinkist app? From the outset, it looked like I’m the ideal customer/consumer for Blinkist: I have way too many books on my reading list and my commute matches better with audio than with written content (which is why the reading list is getting longer, as various podcasts peak my interest for new books faster than I read them). Having an app, which presents a concise summary — upon which I can then decide whether or not I really want to read the full book — sounds like exactly what I need. On the other hand, the heavy marketing effort on YouTube and in podcasts made me wary; and made me wait for a long time before installing the app. Again, I bought into the concept the first time I’ve heard about it — I don’t know how long ago — but then didn’t act. Eventually, I’ve told myself that I have to stop adding books to my reading list without advancing in reading them. So, while I won’t speed up my reading, I can remove titles from my wish list.

Once I’ve made my decision to try Blinkist, I wanted to wait for the next promo-wave on YouTube. After all, even if I will eventually like the Blinkist format after the 7-day trial period, why shouldn’t I benefit from the 25% reduction by clicking on the affiliate link by one of my subscribed YouTubers (plus they will get something out of this affiliation, win-win!)? My free 7-day trial period thus went from Jun 12 – Jun 19, 2023.

My first impression of what I was listening to was so bad that I questioned myself: this app promises everything that I want, why don’t I like it?! Anyway, I have 7 days to decide whether or not I want to pay for the subscription, I shouldn’t judge the app too quickly. Yet, on the second day I felt compelled to start writing parts of this review. I cannot say I was “traumatized” by the delivery, but I was .. just … disappointed.

It usually takes me ages to make up my mind on something. I have many other book reviews/summaries which I wanted to tidy up and post on this blog. Yet, ironically, a review for Blinkist happens to be the first post in the book-review category. Because this app happened to poke me in a way that just made me motivated enough to finish a review. To reiterate: this is not good for the underlying material that I’m presently reviewing.

My main objective was to listen to as many Blinks of the books on my reading list as possible, to then sort them into “keep” or “remove from list”. However, I didn’t want to judge a book by its Blinks, if I didn’t know whether the Blinks are any good. Thus, I first tried to calibrate my opinion of Blinkist’s approach by listening to some books which I have read before and which I hold in high esteem. I didn’t care about listening to Blinks of “bad” books for my calibration. Now that I reflect on this review, I realize that leaving out bad books for calibration was a flaw in my methodology. Luckily — as is ironically one of my negative points of the app — Blinkist doesn’t try to sell the books. Thus, if the underlying book is empty and/or poorly written, the Blinks are even worse: I’m not worried that I keep bad books on my reading list while removing good ones; I’m more likely to also remove good ones, because … well, look at my content-critique below.

For reference, below are some lists of the books I’ve listened the Blinks to (in three categories (read, reading list, discovery), not in the order of listening). I’ve listened to them on my commute and while running. I haven’t looked at the Blinks on the app, solely listened to them; at least I didn’t look at them prior to listening, I have looked at some of them after the fact, to take some notes or look up some keywords on Wikipedia.

The first list represents some Blinks of books that I’ve read before, as sort-of calibration material. All of these are what I consider “good” books and are written in a way that I would expect Blinkist’s approach to work particularly well. As counter example, I couldn’t possibly imagine how Nassim Tahleb’s Incerto series would work as blinks. These books I can full heartily recommend based on having read the books. But based on the Blinks, not at all. Covey’s “7 habits” was particularly poorly executed; I come back to it below.

Book author, title Impression of Blinks Would buy book based on Blinks
Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” very disappointed no
Grove, “High Output Management” bad no
Kahneman, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” good yes
Tetlock, “Superforecasting” bad no

Another category of Blinks I’ve listened to represent a part of my reading list. Blinkist didn’t have all the titles, but nonetheless already a good selection.

Book author, title Impression of Blinks Keep on reading list based on Blinks
Adams, “Loserthink” bad no
Bungay Stanier, “The Coaching Habit” good no
Christensen, “The Innovator’s Dilemma” good yes
Cialdini, “Influence” good yes
Doerr, “Measure What Matters” bad no
Drucker, “The Effective Executive” bad no
Duke, “How to Decide” bad no
Epstein, “Range” neutral no
Frankopan, “The Silk Roads” bad no
Gallo, “Talk Like TED” bad no
Gawande, “The Checklist Manifesto” neutral yes
Harari, “Homo Deus” bad no
Kahneman, “Noise” good yes
Kim, “Blue Ocean Strategy” bad no
LaBerge, “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” good yes
Lencioni, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” bad no
Lynch, “One Up On Wall Street” neutral no
Marks, “The Most Important Thing” bad no
Minto, “The Pyramid Principle” good yes
Pink, “When” bad no
Rumelt, “Good Strategy, Bad Strategy” good yes
Ryan, “Sex at Dawn” good yes
Smith, “Lead with a Story” bad no
Stone, “Thanks for the Feedback” bad no
Tolle, “The Power of Now” bad no
Van Edwards, “Cues” bad no
Wilson, “How to Be an Epicurean” good yes

In a third category, I’ve used the trial period to also discover new titles. Except, unsurprisingly, since Blinkist doesn’t really work for me, these discoveries didn’t do it for me either, at least mostly. I’ve used two ways to explore the catalogue: in the “for you” recommendation by Blinkist, and by clicking on interestingly sounding categories. I’m still puzzled why Blinkist recommended several pseudoscience books (e.g. “The Plant Paradox”): either their algorithm is really bad, or I have to question the whole list of books I’ve listened to, after all this is the material the algorithm based its recommendation on — are they also conspiratorial pseudoscience write-downs?

Book author, title Impression of Blinks Put on reading list based on Blinks
Agus, “The End of Illness” bad no
Asprey, “Smarter Not Harder” good no
Bailey, “Hyperfocus” bad no
Bandler, “The Ultimate Introduction to NLP” good yes
Bregman, “Utopia for Realists” bad no
Burchard, “The Motivation Manifesto” bad no
Gundry, “The Plant Paradox” bad no
Harris, “10% Happier” bad no
Kogon, “Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager” good not for me, but could recommend
Meadows, “Thinking in Systems” good no
Ready, “Neuro-linguistic Programming for Dummies” bad no

Content (the “Blinks”)

Blinkist organizes the summary of each book in several distinct “Blinks”, prefaced with an “introduction” and closed with a “conclusion”.

The way I understood this organization is that the Blinks represent the key take-aways and introduction/conclusion make the Blinks more accessible — difficult to jump directly into the Blinks without an introduction of what the book is even about.

Except, for me, this structure is all wrong. Yes, start with a quick overview of what the book is about and under what category it is. And maybe even provide some context if this is the n-th book of the author, and that (if) some knowledge and terminology of the previous books is needed or recommended. But then jump into the conclusion part: what are the key take-aways? What are the points the Blinks are going to flesh out? What Blinkist presents as “conclusion” would lay the ground for the rest of the Blinks. Like a table of contents.

Instead, the authors of the Blinks try to make the summary more interesting than what it is. They do this by writing beautiful sentences “enriched” with adverbs and adjectives. The narrators choose to speak with a tempo and rhythm that signifies tension. Until the end of the Blink when they state a title of this section (the title of the Blink). In other words, the authors put all this effort into sorting and labeling the content of a book, only to then keep the labels to themselves until the end. As a listener, it would be easier to put meat on a skeleton, rather than ramming bones into a lump of meat after the fact, to shape it in a way that makes sense.

I guess this last point wouldn’t be as bad if one was to read the Blinks, rather than listen to them: in written form, the Blinks do have a title.

Though, when I say the authors of the Blinks make the summaries more interesting by working with language, I’m not quite accurate either. I guess the adjective and vocabulary choice comes from the author of the underlying book. In a way that’s positive: the summary is written in the style of the author (I didn’t test this hypothesis, and out of memory I don’t remember special quirks in the language used in the books which I have read already). Except, at times the Blinks seem like taking every ~20th page or so and recite whatever happened to be on this page.

A real summary, to me, is about stating a higher abstraction level than what is in the book. Highly abstract and dense books cannot be compressed further, and that should be ok too; the 15-20 minutes duration should be a guideline, not an absolute truth. At the same time, some books can be summarized in a single minute or less.

By failing at this abstraction task, Blinkist focuses on stories from the underlying books. In the book, those stories illustrate a point, because — as is often claimed — stories is how people learn. But by leaving out the abstract concepts the stories are supposed to illustrate, those stories remain just good sounding tales.

In “High Output Management”, Andy Grove tells a fable of management based on a fictional breakfast factory: a minimalist factory whose business processes illustrate his teachings. Yet, the way Blinkist summarizes the points is by suddenly talking about boiled eggs without context. This again gives me the feeling that they took every n-th page and condensed that content.

Here is a positive thing I can say about Blinkist: this app is a good negative example for why “sorting and labeling” is important for good communication. If the point of the Blinks is to learn key insights from the book, then said Blinks should first state the category (higher level of abstraction, which they give at the end), and only then provide examples taken and/or inspired by the book.
Instead, the blinks are written in a way, as if the authors want to congratulate themselves about how well (at least as well as the book authors) they have written the Blink, and with how many adjectives they’ve achieved this.

The worst culprits of this operating mode are the Blinks to Covey’s “7 habits of highly successful people”: the book is very much organized in a sorting and labeling manner (as any book, really, but the “7 habits” is first and foremost organized in … surprise … seven habits). Covey first states the title of the habit and then elaborates on it — yes, with a story. The Blinks on the other hand, first tell a story and then conclude “that’s why it’s important to put first things first”.

Plus, the way I remember habit 7, sharpening the saw, was about continuous learning and living with a growth mindset. The Blink on the other hand puts its focus on “taking rest and relaxing”. That’s a very different read from mine. So, that’s not a critique on the form, but on the content of the Blinks. And the Blinks don’t even summarize the seven habits, they somehow try to put them together and slice differently. These were clearly the worst Blinks I’ve listened to.

On the topic of Covey’s book, Blinkist recommended a book by B. Burchard called “High Performance Habits”. I didn’t list this book in any of the lists above because I didn’t actually select it while exploring, at some point Blinkist lost the playlist (the “Queue”) I had prepared and auto-played a title it thought would fit my interests. I was on a run outside and when I’ve realized that the app is playing a book I didn’t remember putting on the playlist, I’ve stopped to relaunch the books I’ve intended to listen to.

Anyway, these “High Performance Habits” do not take reference to Covey’s (well known!) book, despite the overlapping topic. I see two possible reasons for this: the author does refer to Covey’s prior work and Blinkist omits this reference, or the author didn’t know about prior art (which would make me question the editing and publishing house). Either way, in my opinion, someone summarizing a book (Blinkist in this case) should comment about the space a given book lives in.

Obviously, I’m asking too much here. I can understand why the authors at Blinkist chose the approach that they did: I’m implying something that is way too personalized, and thus (at the moment) not possible for a broad mass market app. Also, taking reference to prior art would itself have to be curated and personalized: for how many other books would Covey’s work represent some kind of prior art? A book on nutrition or of medical content would have an almost infinite list of other more or less relevant books. What might be feasible (because of reasonably finite scope) is taking reference to only books I have read before. But, again, such summaries wouldn’t be feasible for human curated content.

Nonetheless, apart from my content preferences, other parts, such as putting the key points first instead of last, would definitely work for a wide public and not only me.

As stated up front, I cannot recommend Blinkist.

Interface (the app)

My main concern was the content. If the content is good then I can work also with a bad user interface. For this reason I didn’t spend too much time trying to understand how to better navigate the app. I also never logged into the browser version. So, the present review is far from exhaustive.

In the following I quickly present a few points that jumped in my eyes and triggered an aversion for the app.


The app focuses on “finishing” books. They don’t present a library in which the user can then filter for “read” and “unread” (as in the Kindle); or “listened” / “unlistened”, “blinked” / “unblinked”. Or if they want to help the user find back titles in chronological order, they could have called in “history”, like what YouTube does. No, Blinkist puts “finished” up and center.

How can I say I’ve “finished” a book after listening to (/reading through) the Blinks? To me, this focus on “finished” books looks like Blinkist wants to be the app of choice for all these people who boast on social media how many (the quantity) books they’ve read within a given time period, rather than how these books (and which) have influenced them (the quality).

With “finishing” books presented as a/the top objective of Blinkist, my experience of the rest of the app is biased to the negative. Interesting how my perception is guided with such a subtle choice in words, but that’s the lenses I look through while examining the app.


Here is how I used the app: I searched for a title, clicked on the bookmark sign to get the book in my “saved” collection. In the “saved” collection, I click on the menu (the three vertical dots) of the book, then on “add to queue” and again to “download audio”.

Here’s my problem: where do I find the “queue”? I was missing a “Playlist” (or “Queue”) collection/button/anything that could show me which titles I have already queued up. But I didn’t find it.

Instead, to launch the playlist, I had to click on one of the (queued) titles and then on “play audio”. This then launched the audio and then there an icon appeared, under which the queue was displayed. In this queue you could then move the order the titles are going to play in.

But careful: if you make a wrong move — for example because you grab a title at the wrong position while trying to move it to an other position in the queue — you unintentionally skip to this position in the queue and launch the audio of this other book. And because Blinkist focuses on “finishing” books, the queue only shows what is still ahead, but not what used to be on the queue beforehand.

In other words, you don’t know which titles you had queued up. Instead, you somehow have to compare the titles in the “saved” list with those in the queue — good thing is that Blinkist keeps the skipped titles under “saved” and didn’t yet put them under “finished”.

Another thing that I didn’t find out was how to pause the audio, open the written Blinks of another book, and then get back to the audio and the queue. Somehow opening another Blink invalidated the queue. This is annoying if I’m listening to something which reminds me of something that I’ve heard in a Blink of another book, I quickly want to check what was said in that other book before then getting back to the Blinks I’m currently listening to.

Ads, even inside the app

During my test period, Blinkist promoted their new feature of “shared spaces”. (The basic working: you, as premium member, share access to Blinks with friends and family, who can then access said Blinks for free … for as long as you are a Premium member — in short, Blinkists wants to improve on retention by tricking the paying members into locking themselves into a network of cheap family members who will neg the Premium members for being “cheap”, because they don’t want to lose access to the Blinks which the Premium member is paying for. It’s twisted.)

The marketing of this “shared spaces” feature inside the app was annoying me: they’ve put in pop-up messages, and just generally, the whole interface was made for you to click on “shared spaces” instead of simplifying the playlist aspect mentioned above.

This again comes back to a questionable alignment: on the one hand, Blinkist solves the problem of “you’re life is too busy, listen to Blinks while doing your chores instead of sitting down for hours while reading the book”. Yet, on the other hand, their user interface does anything but providing an efficient interaction with the underlying books. Instead of freeing up time, they trap the user with distractions.


Yeah, I didn’t like the app/service.

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