in Writing

Business book summaries

I was just thinking it would be great to have summaries of all those books I’ll never get to read, and of course someone has done that already. But this company is emphasizing the variety of formats they offer, when I bet business people would most prefer a bound collection of these published once per quarter.


  1. Try getAbstract ( – tons of titles in PDF, Windows Reader and Palm. For $299/year, you get unlimited downloads from their library, plus a 5-page summary each week emailed to you.

    There are non-electronic services, too – like AudioTech, which presses CDs, and Soundview Executive Book Summaries, which issues them in print (print? what’s that?).

    Just Google “book summaries” – but I really recommend getAbstract. You can even get 2 sample summaries on their site to get an idea of the format.

    And, no, I am not a paid shill – I just love the service. I read 200 summaries in 6 months this way – it’s the best way to read for content, IMHO.

  2. This has really got me thinking; I guess I didn’t know such stuff was available. I’m a little nervous though. I mean, here’s a great summary of The Tipping Point (well, ironically, I just skimmed it)

    But is it a substitute for having read the book, or just the piece you want to have around after so you can remember the whole thing? Gladwell, specifically, uses a lot of stories (I like that) and just having the summary is a little hard to learn from, I imagine.

    I feel like this is what I do in my own work – collect stories, organize them into lists and summaries, but support them with stories. Going back and forth between the two.

    What will I learn, really (this is just my own learning style I’m questioning) from reading a summary without having the engagement of some more narrative flow to back it up.

    I mean, I think I get the point of Wisdom of Crowds, Freakonomics, Flat Earth (whatever the Friedman book is called), etc. just from the newspaper, or the blogosphere, so will a summary help me or not?

  3. The summary is definitely not a substitute for the book. I see them as 1) a way to get the gist of the information if I can’t read the book, and 2) a way to evaluate whether I want to read the book.

    And — you must admit — many books simply don’t need to be books. Books are published for all sorts of reasons, not just to teach, and some books would better be presented as essays.

  4. Your last point, Victor, is essential. I’ve read so many of these books where after Chapter 2, I’m just repeating to myself “yep, yep. I get it. Okay….you already said that. Yep. Uh huh” – and wishing indeed it was an essay.

  5. It’s like the executive summaries in Harvard Business Review – I read them first to get a primer, and then go read the article. For ‘Never Eat Alone’ I read someone’s online summary, and then read the book. There aren’t as many ‘a ha’ moments that way, but cognitive priming shows boosted comprehension – in real world terms, you often learn and remember the material better if you’ve gotten a summary first.

  6. I’ve been a Soundview Executive Book Summaries subscriber for years and would recommend this product highly. Though they do offer a print version, you can also get the summaries in PDF, PDA, MP3 and on CD. You can download a free summary from their website to check it out.

  7. ” .. material better if you’ve gotten a summary first. ”

    Second that.

  8. I use It also has several formats but I like the Powerpoint version the most. I use this format to share the summaries with my sales team duing our weekly meetings.

  9. Hi. I’m just responding to Eric Sohns’ comments on Soundview Executive Book Summaries. They actually have more formats than GetAbsract and AudioTech combined.

    They currently provide their summaries in print, audioCD, CD-ROM, PDF, MP3, HTML, and versions for Palm and Microsoft Reader.

    If you really want flexibility, this is the way to go.

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