Ever heard about the App Blinkist? I hadn’t until a friend excitedly told me about it the other day. Blinkist is an App which condenses books into 15-20 minute reads, basically Cliff Notes for adults, only it’s exclusively non-fiction (thank God!). I gave it a try and I’ve now ‘read’ Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth, a book I’ve been curious about for a while. Except I don’t feel I’ve really read it, I only know the definition of ‘the beauty myth’ and have learnt that we women should try to be friends not competitors….it took me 19 minutes.
What’s the purpose of Blinkist, I wonder? Purportedly, it’s to save people’s time. To give more people a chance to familiarise themselves with great books. But isn’t it really about being able to convincingly lie at cocktails parties when someone asks if you have read Naomi Wolf or Stephen Hawking or any other well-known non-fiction book? Are people these days too embarrassed to admit that they haven’t read a given book?
I know people are busy. I wish I’d more time myself. But does everyone need to have seen or read everything? Isn’t it okay to admit you haven’t read Stephen Hawking’s book and have your conversation partner explain to you what it’s about? You’ll probably have read or seen something he or she hasn’t. Of course, it’s fun to discuss a book or TV-series with someone who’ve seen it too, but is it really so bad to be the one who hasn’t? With all the books, box-sets, films, TV-series out there it’s humanly impossible to have seen/read it all. So is there really a need to pretend?
Besides, isn’t it a thousand times more satisfying to digest a book slowly, dipping in and out of it, mulling over what the author is trying to communicate, making up your own mind about the topic? That doesn’t happen in 19 minutes. Yes, it’s true that many of these non-fiction books could benefit from a trim and don’t need to be read from start to finish. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be condensed down to 19 minutes by a twenty-something start-up employee.
Ironically, at the top of Blinkist ‘Top non-fiction’ list is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Sethan Covey. When you’ve finished a Blinkist ‘book’, a tick appears on the screen. Been there, done that! Need I say more?