The beauty of book summaries is that you can get key points of a book distilled down into easily digestible information. Too busy to read every book on your list? Find a book summary instead, so you can quickly glean knowledge, prepare for a meeting, or decide to buy the book. Rather than spending six to 10 hours reading a single book, you might spend a few minutes to an hour instead.
Time-starved entrepreneurs, busy managers, executives, students and others all get value from book summaries. Read on as we cover the best book summary websites and resources for business people.
What is a Summary of a Book?
When we define a book summary, we mean someone has taken the time to read a book and create a new product called a summary. A summary is far shorter than the original book, covering key points made by the book author but in the words and sentences of the summarizer. A book summary is not plagiarism nor a copycat trying to pretend it’s the original. Rather, the summary is its own new work — but shorter and crediting the original writer for his or her big ideas.
Where to Find Book Summary Websites
We were surprised at the number of services providing book summaries — there are multiple options. But you want to know, ‘where can I find business book summaries?’. We have answers. Ten of the best places to find business book summaries are:
GetAbstract is one of the big players in this industry, for good reason: it has the widest catalog, with over 20,000 summaries. The service is aimed at the corporate world with categories like management, innovation, corporate IT. GetAbstract claims to serve more than one third of Fortune 100 organizations.
Its book summaries are high quality although some are a bit dry. They come in seven languages, including the English language. Every summary includes a rating, take-aways, popular quotes, and an author bio. Great features include the ability to highlight things, such as a favorite idea or several sentences.
There is a 3-day free trial and if you like it, you can subscribe for $99 per year to get 5,000 summaries. An upgrade gets you access to all books as well as multiple formats including Kindle, along with Android and iOS apps.
Best for: Employees and managers who work in large enterprises. With the largest catalog of high-quality book summaries, it is also ideal for people with lengthy reading lists and for Kindle users.
Soundview pre-dates the internet, pioneering the concept of easy-to-read 8-page text and 20-minute audio summaries. It is another big player, and a Professional plan for $199 per year gets you access to 2,500+ summaries, webinars and newsletters. The service features corporate plans in additional to individual ones, including webinars with authors and tips videos.
Best for: Corporate learning and individuals looking for a continuing education platform.
Blinkist has a broad library of 3000+ titles. Many topics are in the career and life success areas — ranging from entrepreneurship to parenting to communication skills. You also get highlights from prominent podcasts.
A premium subscription gets you unlimited access to all titles to read and listen to voice recordings. You can highlight ideas and sync them with Evernote, as well as get the ability to download for offline access, and send to Kindle. Sign up for the Free Daily newsletter to read one title a day at no charge.
Best for: Those who are auditory learners who want well-rounded access to a range of non-fiction topics.
ReadItFor.Me is really two services in one: a virtual learning platform called ActionClass and book summaries. More than a book club, the action classes are a leadership development program applying topics from books to your own action plan. ReaditForMe offers a schedule of classes three times per week around a specific book. Books include 36 leadership and soft skill competencies.
The free book summaries have a 14-day trial. If you like the books, you can subscribe. Pricing is very simple at $49 per month, or they can customize a program allowing team access in your firm.
Best for: Any person who wants something more than to fill a reading list. If you are looking for leadership development training, try it to make better life decisions.
Summaries calls itself a life-time learning company providing concise information and tools, specializing in business books. It has some great books — self-help classics like The 7 habits of Highly Effective People and recent advice guides like Built not Born.
One of the best things about Summaries.com is that each summary condenses a 300+ page book into eight pages long. The company says their experience shows eight pages is the ideal length for someone to get the main ideas. Over 1,000 works are part of its offering, including everything from sales books to finance books.
A subscription starting at $12 per month gets you a new summary weekly. Or purchase by the piece, with prices starting at $15 for five. The website also offers a free plan with abbreviated 5-minute snapshots in blog posts (also downloadable as PDFs). The short free ones give you a taste — the lengthier size are more thorough on topics and advice.
Best for: Individuals who prefer to have a steady diet of insights and topics doled out on a regular basis.
Optimize.me is a resource website in the self-improvement niche. Along with motivational content and classes by founder Brian Johnson (the “Chief Philosopher”), subscribers also get access to a website section called Philosophers Notes. If you are looking to choose a self help book or a leadership book for learning how to improve your life and career, and you want summaries, then Philosophers Notes is a great place.
You get in-depth written summaries along with accompanying MP3 files. Examples include summaries of The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy, and A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden. There are even a few free ones, although most are premium.
Best for: Those looking for deep insights to forge their place in the world. This service is really part of a life learning and self development platform.
Now here’s an interesting concept: what if you could experience a book summary in a visual format, as an infographic? Sound crazy? It’s not. Readingraphics says “ideas come alive” with its graphics of non-fiction books. Readingraphics offers three formats:
- infographic summary
- 10-15 page written summaries
- 20-minute audio files
The written summaries are interesting to read, and highly visual with bullets and callout boxes. You can buy a book summary bundle that includes all three formats. Pricing starts at $14.14 per month. Or you can purchase a single book summary starting at $9.97.
Subscribe to the company’s newsletter to get two of the all-time best business books summarized, for free: Think and Grow Rich, and How to Win Friends and Influence People.
Best for: Visual learners and those who prefer skimming bullets and short callouts, versus reading longer blocks of sentences.
Instaread covers over 1,000 books in wide ranging topics such as politics, arts, fiction, nutrition and psychology. It gives the feel of a high-brow MBA, also offering summaries of Harvard Business Review, Kellogg Insight and New York Times articles. It features written and voice, with a focus on its mobile apps. Prices start at $7.49 per month. Requires a credit card to get a sneak peek.
Best for: Those who want a cosmopolitan, MBA-type reading list with a wide range of current topics.
FourMinuteBooks specializes in non-fiction books, with more than 800 mostly focused on self-improvement. New summaries, which the service says can be read in 4 minutes, come out three times a week and you can get notified via the email newsletter. You can purchase the library of PDFs for $99, or 300 audiobooks for $49. The audiobooks come as MP3s and on Soundcloud. It also offers bundles of free book summaries.
Best for: Those who want podcasts of books and /or a reminder to engage in a regular reading regimen.
The BookSummaryClub appears to be an affiliate site. That’s not bad, but it’s important to realize that you may get a small taste of 140 books the site offers, and then will get referred over to another site such as Blinkist or Instaread to purchase THEIR summary. It’s a simple, easy to navigate website with books that startup entrepreneurs will like, and other interesting content such as lists of reading aids.
Best for: Entrepreneurs who like simplicity.
Alternatives to Free Book Summaries
One great thing about book summary websites is that they not only do the work of summarizing books, they make it easy to find all in one place often in multiple formats. A major part of their value-add is convenience. But if you don’t want to subscribe to a service, the following tools can substitute in some ways as free summaries:
The Wikipedia website has thousands of pages that amount to free book summaries. You have to look up each work separately but you can find many well-known books with their own Wikipedia pages. Books must meet Wikipedia’s notability standards to qualify. While we might not call them summaries, some Wikipedia website pages explain the topics well. Quality varies depending on the entry’s writer.
12. Amazon Search Inside the Book
The Amazon preview feature, called Search Inside the Book, can replace free book summaries in part. Publishers determine how much to make viewable, but 20% of the book is the default. This includes the table of contents and more. While not book summaries like others on our list, this Amazon feature is a quick way to see part of the author’s work and decide whether to buy books.
13. Book Reviews
Book reviews help you decide whether to buy a book. Reading reviews of great books is one more way of getting a summary of topics before investing more time or money. A typical book review will tell you the main topic and why you should read the book, lessons contained, a little about the author, and who would most enjoy the book. See our Business Book Reviews section for over 800 reviews.
Why Read Book Summaries?
People read book summaries to:
- Learn information faster and save time for other things.
- Be successful in the business world, life or school.
- Sound knowledgeable in meetings.
- Create reading lists to develop your team.
- Get inspired to do bigger and better things.
Musician Frank Zappa once said: “So many books, so little time.” Book summaries address our shortened attention spans in the information age of the internet. Today some people have trouble concentrating on longer books. Book summaries allow us to get through more books in less time.
What Makes the Best Book Summaries?
Great book summaries have straight-forward organization. They are easy to scan, with bullet points and limited amounts of text.
For non-fiction books, the book summary gives an interpretation of the big ideas and main topics, without the reader having to do all the hard work. Book summaries can be helpful for marketing books or for millionaire books, and much more.
Consider availability in different formats. For example, you may prefer reading in Kindle, or you may be in your car a lot and need to listen to information.
With summaries you always get just a part of what the original writer said.
What is the Ideal Length of a Book Summary?
The ideal length of a book summary depends on your reading frequency and goals. See the following considerations.
- Goal: To decide whether to buy a book — For this purpose a few sentences or paragraphs may be all you need to decide whether the topic interests you enough to buy the book.
- Goal: To be inspired by information and ideas — A longer summary is best if you want to learn what the author means or key topics without reading the entire book.
- Goal: To speedily digest books — Some people want to read voraciously but have limited time blocks. A number of services specify how long their summaries take to consume. Whether reading, listening to book summaries while on a coffee break at your job, or using an app between appointments or at home — focus on a speedy reading experience.
What Formats Do Book Summaries Come In?
Traditionally, book summaries are in writing. But the best book services today offer summaries in multiple formats, including infographics, videos, MP3 files, downloadable PDFs, electronic epub files and / or Kindle. The sites also provide summaries as part of mobile apps in a phone environment so you can power through your reading list at the local Starbucks instead of wasting time on social media.
Summaries vs Study Guides: What is the Difference?
Study guides or study notes go beyond book summaries. Intended mostly for students, guides aim to add value by providing analysis and study aids. Study guides could be a 75-page PDF — or longer. Options include Spark Notes, Cliffs Notes, BookRags, A-Plus Notes. Study guides like Cliff Notes tend toward classic literature such as Macbeth or educational topics like biochemistry, not the latest business books. The better ones like Spark Notes or Cliffs Notes offer a mobile app, too. Teachers may also find them valuable.
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