getAbstract – A Quick Fix of Wisdom

One of the interesting companies I’ve met with recently, is getAbstract, who offer a great service for info junkies like me. Their proposition is that they take leading new and classic business books and summarise them into 5 pages.

I was interested to see how well that could work, to be honest. I mean, could the wisdom of 300 pages or so be distilled into 5, without missing core concepts, or indeed could the whole point be missed in some cases? Would it be like Woody Allen’s speed reading course, where his take on War And Peace was that it “about Russia”?

I’ve looked at about 5 Abstracts so far and am pleased to say that they work remarkably well. The books range from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan (that I’ve written about before) and know pretty well, to The New Rules of Marketing & PR
by David Meerman Scott, which is new to me.

The Black Swan worked very well, despite containing a whole bunch of unusual ideas, expressed in a highly literate and individual style. Many business books really just contain one idea, which is then expanded on, with lots of supporting case studies and data – to the point where one feels that the author is sometimes trying to pad things out to turn an article into a whole book. These would be quite easy to summarise. But The Black Swan is far more complex, yet the core ideas are succinctly explained. If I hadn’t read it, I would probably want to now and that’s fine, as the abstract has taught me that this would be a good investment of time and money.

On the other hand, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, while the abstract was just as good, it demonstrated that I really didn’t need to bother reading the whole book. That’s not because it wouldn’t be very useful for many people, just that it was pretty basic for someone in my position – I don’t need to have explained to me what a blog is and how to talk to bloggers, for instance. Plenty of people do, by the way, including many, many practitioners in the PR industry.

Subscription costs $299 per year and that gives you access to 4,000 abstracts and the 500 they’re adding every year. If you read business books, this is certainly great value, as it enables you to get the main points of many books very quickly. Plus it allows you to pre-qualify the books you feel you should find more about.

Mechanically, you select your book and the format you want (eg PDF, Palm, Blackberry etc) and get them emailed to you. This makes it very attractive to use when you’re travelling and offline.

On the downside, I think it would be great to have an easier way to get them physically onto other mobile phones, especially Smartphones. And it would also be worth having a cheaper subscription option, which could be ad funded. It’s not just business people with expense accounts that would be attracted to this service.

So, my summary of their summary is; check it out.

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