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You’ve lost control of your life when you have to use those book summary services

Question: Should I use Blinkist or buy the summary of a book so I can save time?

Answer: No. Because, really, what are you even doing with your time?

I was reading a Reddit thread this weekend I’ve already lost the link to. It’s not important. What’s important is someone was asking for book recommendations, someone else gave them five or six, and another someone wanted to know where all the summaries to those books were.

You’ve lost control of your life and your mind if you can’t be bothered to read at least a book or two.

Sure, reading is hard

Let’s start with the agreeable premise that books are smart. Even the most know-nothing person recognizes books are smart. 

If something’s important, someone probably wrote it down in a book. And even if it’s wrong or just plain dumb, it at least requires a level of cognition to write and read it that is above a Facebook toot.

We also know reading is among the most cognitively demanding tasks humans do.

Humans are not designed to read, but we have evolved to read. 

To be able to recognize characters, focus on the words, understand their meaning and context, imagine the scene in our heads, and get understanding out of a book is challenging. It’s a lot for our brains to chew on.

This is probably why most surveys of American reading habits point to a decline in reading habits. Fewer Americans read at least one book year over year every year since we started tracking habits in the early 90s. 

People have excuses:

  • “I don’t have the energy!”
  • “I don’t have the time to read!”
  • “I don’t know what to read next!”

And no one would admit to it, but we can probably add, “My attention span is too short!” to the list, too.

Enter the American entrepreneur selling “book summaries” through services like Blinkist, Instaread, Optimize.me, Readitfor.me, and others.

If you’re looking to book summaries to fix problems, you’ve lost control of your life and your mind.

A lot of people point to James Clear and Derek Sivers’ blogs as evidence of the value of book notes and summaries since those authors share notes on books they read. Personally, I view this as two writers writing notes for their own cognitive benefit. 

I suppose you can use a book summary app to read a quick hit of a book and decide if you want to buy or check it out in full. 

But let’s be honest: the people paying for book summaries are like college kids skimming the Cliff’s Notes of a book. They’re not going to read it. They’re probably not going to understand the value of the summary, either. They just want to cheat to a shortcut.

There’s obviously a place in the market for these things because people always want shortcuts. That doesn’t make them ideal.

If you insist on reaching for the summary books, at least recognize them for what they are and how relying on them sets you up for future failure.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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