The Pros and Cons of Book Summary Mobile Apps

Joshua Poh
5 min readJan 3, 2018
Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash

Have you looked at a book in a store and wanted to read it but was intimidated by its sheer length?

Or wanted to discover the lessons of ancient philosophy but was put off by its frankly, difficult-to-read language?

Well, there’s book summary apps to help you.

Blinkist, Joosr are just some of the apps that allow you to read condensed versions of non-fiction books on the go. Book summary apps are the SparksNotes of the non-fiction book world.

Knowledge delivered simply and consisely — what’s not to love?

But are they any good for avid readers? I take a look at the pros and cons of book summary apps here.

Pros of Book Summaries Apps

Book summary apps cut through the fluff

Some non-fiction books are based around one or more core concepts and are embellished to become full length books. Reading them can therefore become tiresome.

A book summary app helps you cut through the fluff to get straight to the key points. You can read the book summary to find out if this book is worth exploring more, then purchase the full book to get the entire experience.

Book summary apps can also refresh the key points from books you’ve read without going through the entire book again.

Book summary apps are best for reading on-the-go

Where book summary apps shine most is giving you the ability to read on the go.

Waiting for a friend or doctor’s appointment? Instead of mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, why not whip out your book summary app to quickly read a new book?

Squeezing on the train and crammed back to back with hot, sweaty commuters? You won’t have space to take out a physical book.

Why don’t use your book summary app to quickly absorb some knowledge while commuting?

Photo by Corey Agopian on Unsplash

Some book summary apps like Blinkist also allow you to listen to audio versions of books — ideal for people who are commuting or need to listen to something while driving or doing household chores, for example.

Cons of Book Summaries Apps

Book summary apps strip books of the reading experience.

Naturally, reading the book summary will never be as good as reading the whole book.

A book summary strip the text of subtleties of tone and the colours of language, leaving only the essential ideas.

For example, in Aziz Ansari’s book Modern Romance, he combines academic findings from sociology, social anthropology and psychology while keeping his trademark sassy-cum-satirical tone in his writing. Book summaries turn the sass and bite of his writing voice into a dry, emotionless straight-as-a-block husk in the summary.

This method works for arguably more academic books like Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations but it does dampen the reading experience as you don’t hear the writer’s true voice.

Book summary apps provide a second-hand reading experience

With book summaries you get second-hand information. You are reading the staff’s interpretation of the key ideas of the book and not the original way the author wrote or presented his or her ideas.

The book summariser’s decides what is important and what isn’t. Hence, you run the risk of missing out on crucial ideas or details when reading a book summary versus the original book.

It’s harder to retain information using book summaries

The greatest strength of reading a book summary is also its greatest weakness.

The best part about reading a book is the sustained, intense concentration required to digest the words and find out what each author is saying.

You know that moment when you’re so intently focused on a book that everything around you seems to fall away?

Yeah, you won’t get that experience with a book summary app.

Naturally, spending more time with each book allows you to digest the information more readily.With book summary apps, the reading experience becomes touch-and-go; useful for learning about big ideas, but not as useful for deep reading.

Quickly digesting many different books can cause ideas to blur together in your mind. I found it difficult to remember what I read from the previous book after starting on a new one without referring to my own notes and highlights within the app.

Instead of mindlessly plowing through books on the summary app, I recommend going through a series of lessons from a book and either buy the book or read around the topic if you’re truly interested and for greater retention.

Conclusion: How can book summary apps fit in with your reading life?

Can book summaries replace reading actual books?

My answer is, no.

Amazing books contain an extraordinary amount of wisdom and advice that cannot be summarised into 2 pages. These books deserve to not just be read — they deserve to be studied, annotated, slowly digested and taken to heart.

Book summary apps offer none of that deep reading experience.

Yet, many non-fiction books are padded with unnecessary and ‘fluff’ content to make them longer, or drags on with repeating the same points over and over.This is where book summary apps can complement your reading life by cutting straight to the core points.

Book summary apps can be used to:

  • Discover if a book is worth investing in
  • Find a more productive way to spend your on-the-go or idling time beyond mobile games or social media
  • Discover what books are available to read around a topic

Book summary apps will not replace reading for me. But they will act as a strong complement to building a sustainable reading habit, especially with the ability to read on the go.

What do you think about book summary apps? How do they fit into your reading routine? Leave a comment below!

--

--