There is a growing crop of non-fiction book summary services on the web. I understand that these can be fraught with peril. When you have someone else summarize a thing for you, you’ll never know what they chose to leave out.
I’ve tried a few, and none of them have stuck until recently when I found Shortform. Shortform has several features that I particularly like:
- One-page Summaries – Each book has a one-page summary. I’ll read these to decide if I want to go any deeper. Often one page is enough for me to decide a book isn’t for me.
- Much Longer Summaries – If I get past the one-page summary, the actual Shortform summary is much longer than any other summary service I’ve ever used. The summaries go into greater detail and even cross-reference other summaries in its library. I get a lot of good information from the Shortform summaries. Once I finish a summary, I often know whether I want to go to the next step and read the actual book. This often happens, but not always. In that regard, I think of Shortform as more of a book “filter” service than a book “summary” service.
- The app is good. It makes it easy to read the summaries on iPhone or iPad. You can also access your account directly from the web. It retains your reading position and highlights.
- You can also download the summaries as PDF files (limited to three downloads per week.)
- It integrates with Readwise, so my highlights automatically find their way into my spaced repetition system.
My Shortform subscription recently came up for renewal, and I gladly paid for it. I believe it more than paid for itself in helping me find better books for me and avoid a lot of turds. I contacted Shortform folks and told them I was planning to write about their service, and they gave my readers a discount code if you’re interested.