Got abstract?

Just happened to find the “getAbstractservice. It turns thousands of books into five-page summaries that “can be read in 10 minutes”.

I thought they use artificial intelligence (lo and behold) to analyze and then generate such pages, but later I found their FAQ page says:

Our summaries are prepared by a world-class team of business writers and editors.

So the mystery solved: they hire people to read the books and write “Cliff Notes” for you, so you’re paying them to save your own time. This is quite an old business model, but has its own twist in the Internet age.

The key point is their “template” that sets each metadata piece of the book in place, so you know where to find the part you need (to start a conversation with someone, for example) and make use of it. The official site says:

Each of our summaries is formatted using getAbstract’s proven template to maximize knowledge retention. Every summary includes a 1 rating, 2 top take-aways, 3 a full summary, 4 significant quotes, 5 an author biography and other key points — all of which can be absorbed in less than ten minutes.

Quite smart and could be useful if you’re always on the run and need to know about (not essentially read) some books.

It could be very practical and time-saving like McDonalds (in contrast to a full meal) — you drive in and out with mouth full of perceived nutrition; I personally would avoid relying on this service unless I need to start a quick conversation with a book author.

This following old article explains getAbstract’s story, business model and value proposition. Take a look if you’d like to know more about it.

By the way, they now have services in Chinese and the related web pages are apparently done with native people. So I believe that they already have some substantial business in the (Simplified) Chinese market.

They charge US$59 to $299 a year, but interestingly they set tiers with book categories, not the amount you read; for example, you need to pay $299 to read “Digitalization & IT” books or stick with the “personal development” selection.

Will you pay $299 to have a bunch of people doing homework for you (I assume you are a professional)? I am not against it but I do hesitate as the “compressed knowledge” (it’s official slogan) takes all the fun out of hardcore reading.

By the way, idea of the title was taken from the old ad series “Got milk?”