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  • Anant Gupta

Book Summaries and Paywalls

Some random thoughts on book summary apps and paywalls everywhere


Blinkist


I was watching a youtube video from someone the other day and his sponsorship spot made me aware of this app called "Blinkist", an app that gives you book summaries. On paper, it sounds like an intriguing concept. Books are long and time is short. Most of the books can be summarized in a blog post anyway (especially self-help books, the most useless reading ever). Anyways, I was sceptic but have it a try anyway for some books anyway. The result was as I expected: it is not worth it. Look, the simple thing is good books take us through a journey. Different readers will have their own imagination and takeaways from the same story. Something may resonate more with me than with you. Different people have different favorite characters in the book because they can relate to different people. It is all relative and it depends. Let me give an example: Years ago I read "One up the Wall Street" by Peter Lynch. It is a great book. I discussed the book with someone on reddit and our favorite takeaways were totally different. He was talking about the valuation perspective from Lynch while I was focused on looking at management behavior. Same book, totally different pieces of advice that we decided were best.


The person summarizing the book for the app won't be able to give it justice. If you want the full experience of a good book, you will have to read through. No shortcuts unfortunately. That being said, the apps have utility for self-help motivational books. That category always belongs in the trash.


Paywalls


This is a rant. Paywalls are stupid. Everything is paywalled online. Wall Street Journal wants me to pay full subscription for maybe 5 stories that I read in a month on their website. Same for Bloomberg, FT, New Scientist, Substack etc. We've all seen it. Different sites have different content that I want to look at and no one place has it all in one place. I can't pay for 10 different subscriptions. Someone bundle this thing up. I am not against publications making money, I get it they need to pay their staff. At the same time, you can't expect someone to pay 10+ different subscriptions. It feels a bit hypocritical of me to ask these things considering I am an avid adblock user who doesn't see any ads on his laptop, something that could fund the websites. I am willing to pay for a bundled subscription service, a pay-per-reading type model where you pay some cents out of a wallet for reading a story. It is challenging to implement, like how to avoid misclicks, massive clickbait to lure maximum users to the website, limited room for websites to publish content as they compete with each other and whatever else I am missing. But hey, someone gotta try. I hope companies like Flipboard come up with a solution to this in the future. It is annoying to have so much information behind dozen paywalls spread across.

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