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Our world of words.

Blinkist or you’ll miss it

With a new app set to turn the way we read on its head, book-loving Gemma Houltby ponders the need for a speed-read.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t irritated when I heard about the Blinkist app that condenses books into 15-minute reads.

My instant reaction was to feel sorry for all of those authors who’ve agonised over every one of their 100,000 words, only to see them shrivel to something that you could read while waiting for the oven to heat up. But then I started to think about it and, actually, it makes perfect sense.

If I lived in an ideal world, I’d be reading all the time. But I don’t. I live in a world where time is at a premium; where work, family and responsibilities keep me busy pretty much all the time. Reading gets pushed to the back of the queue, occasionally coughing politely to attract my attention. And for every couple of titles I manage to cram in, there are at least another dozen to add to my reading list.

So, an app that could help me digest the basic principles of a book while I’m drying my hair? I’m starting to see the appeal.

Access to the complex

The thing is, this app does exactly what good communicators do every day – it takes complex topics and breaks them down into a succinct, bite-sized format that today’s time-poor audiences can appreciate.

I can’t count how many times I’ve finished an interview and thought: ‘I’ve got enough to write a thesis here,’ knowing full well I only have a few words in which to do the job.

But modern audiences don’t often have time to read reams of copy. We’re vying for their attention during break times, shift changeovers, busy commutes or a few snatched moments at their desks, so we’ve got just minutes to give them the essentials they need to know about their company and how they play a part in its success.

Capturing the audience

The trick to writing concisely is to understand your audience and what information will pique their interest. Most readers want the key points upfront so that they can absorb the headlines without having to sift through the background. And if those key points have whetted their appetite, and they do want to know more, give them somewhere to go where they can get that detail – a link or reference to further reading.

My kneejerk reaction to the app was off the mark. I equated a ‘15-minute read’ with trivialising content when, in fact, it’s about giving people an opportunity they may not otherwise have to access and understand a book’s core content. If, at the end of those 15 minutes, they walk away knowing more about a subject than they did previously, that’s success. Who knows, if it leaves them with a desire to find out even more, they might also make the decision to read the book in full.

Maybe I can manage my reading list after all…

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