As a productivity enthusiast, I'm always on the lookout for newer and faster ways to acquire meaningful information. I mean c'mon. Who wouldn't want to instantly gain knowledge ala Neo from The Matrix, right?
Recently I've been looking into a few tools specializing in "book summaries". Each service has their own spin, but the overall premise is similar across the board: Save time by distilling hundreds of pages of reading material down to a few key points. The idea seems neat but I was (and still remain) a little skeptical. That said, I decided to (finally) try out a few of these services. For about a week or two, I've been testing Imprint, Headway, and Blinkist. Here are my preliminary thoughts and opinions thus far:
- It can indeed save time. Before I get into quibbles and critiques, I think it's fair to acknowledge that these services can save time, if you're using them the right way. Don't think of these as audiobooks or ebooks. The intent is to get the core ideas of a book. That's it.
- A mobile-centric approach is nice. All of the services I reviewed are (arguably) mobile-first products. They function very well on a mobile device and I didn't have any major UI glitches or usability issues on the phone.
- Some of the offers can be a little pricey. Services run anywhere from $4 - $16 per month depending on subscription term. As with most services, there's deeper discounts if you buy for a longer term. Depending on how much you use these services, that may or may not be worth it.
- Voice narration pacing can be off at times. Some books have very straight-forward ideas and principles. Other books are, by their nature, deep and thought-provoking. There were times in some summaries where I felt like the narrator was going too fast.
- Engagement with material is fairly limited. Aside from abbreviated written/spoken summaries, I didn't see that much more options for engaging participants. I would like have liked more ways to collaborate/interact as a user. Of the three services I tried, Imprint came the closes with periodic quizzes but it was very brief and pretty much just answering a couple multiple-choice questions. I was hoping for something a little more engaging like interactive games, lengthier quizzes,etc.
Ultimately, I'm still gathering my opinion on the service. I think there's value in these types of services but they might have a ways to go before they're fully mainstream and popular with the broader audiences.