Bitesize: Exploring the Form, Function, and Future of Online Book Summary Services

Conor Falvey


Popular book summaries are an under-researched family of information objects. Online book summary services offer condensed versions of popular press non-fiction books, especially titles related to management and leadership, for busy readers willing to pay subscription fees. These summaries are intended to be mobile, electronic, quickly-digested alternatives to reading entire books. Summaries can function as tools of learning as well as aids to book discovery. This paper describes the offerings of three online book summary services. It then discusses the implications of such services for information in society. It considers the benefits and drawbacks of the choice to focus these services on popular press nonfiction, which has commercial value and mainstream appeal, rather than other knowledge sources which might be more robust but less desirable to readers. Finally, it examines the ways in which artificial intelligence and natural language processing technologies could transform and disrupt the current system of producing and consuming book summaries.


Book summaries, popular non-fiction, microlearning, text summarization, natural language processing

Full Text:



Amaral, K. E., & Shibley, I. A. (2010). Using popular nonfiction in organic chemistry: Teaching more than content. Journal of Chemical Education, 87(4), 400–404.

Avinesh, P. V. S., Hättasch, B., Özyurt, O., Binnig, C., & Meyer, C. M. (2018). Sherlock: A system for interactive summarization of large text collections. Proceedings of the VLDB Endowment, 11(12), 1902–1905.

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L. (2009). The dark side of information: Overload, anxiety and other paradoxes and pathologies. Journal of Information Science, 35(2), 180–191.

Bayard, P. (2009). How to talk about books you haven’t read. New York: Bloomsbury.

Benedict, J. (2013). Using popular-press nutrition books to develop critical reading skills of first-year college students. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 45(2), 188–190.

Blinkist. (2018a). About Blinkist. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from

Blinkist. (2018b). Retrieved November 29, 2018, from

Candy, P. (2002). Lifelong learning and information literacy (White paper). UNESCO, U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, & National Forum on Information Literacy. Retrieved from

Coldewey, D. (2018). As tech automates, Blinkist keeps its book summary service very human. Retrieved from

Cordeiro, J., Dias, G., & Brazdil, P. (2007). A metric for paraphrase detection. In 2007 International Multi-Conference on Computing in the Global Information Technology (ICCGI’07) (pp. 7–7). Guadeloupe, French Caribbean: IEEE.

GetAbstract. (2018a). About us. Retrieved December 7, 2018, from

GetAbstract. (2018b). Discover getAbstract’s corporate solutions. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from

Goularte, F. B., Nassar, S. M., Fileto, R., & Saggion, H. (2019). A text summarization method based on fuzzy rules and applicable to automated assessment. Expert Systems with Applications, 115, 264–275.

Graefe, A. (2016, January 7). Guide to automated journalism. Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Retrieved from

Harris, D. (n.d.). What is text analytics? We analyze the jargon. Software Advice. Retrieved from

Joosr. (2016, October 24). About us. Retrieved November 29, 2018, from

Korbut, D. (2017, August 1). Machine learning translation and the Google Translate algorithm. Retrieved from

Kravchenko, D. (2018). Paraphrase detection using machine translation and textual similarity algorithms (Master’s thesis). Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

Leu, D., McVerry, J. G., O’Byrne, W. I., Kiili, C., Zawilinski, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H., … Forzani, E. (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy of learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 5–14.

Lewis, L. K., Schmisseur, A., Stephens, K., & Weir, K. (2006). Advice on communicating during organizational change: The content of popular press books. Journal of Business Communication, 43(2), 113–137.

Lichtig, T. (2008, January 6). Never read Ulysses? Me neither. Retrieved from

Lynn, H. M., Choi, C., & Kim, P. (2018). An improved method of automatic text summarization for web contents using lexical chain with semantic-related terms. Soft Computing, 22(12), 4013–4023.

Martin, J. A. (2009). Business book summaries. Choice, 46(8), 1474.

Master a 300-page business book in 45 minutes! (1987). Changing Times, 41(2), 77.

Mazza, C., & Alvarez, J. L. (2000). Haute couture and prêt-à-porter: The popular press and the diffusion of management practices. Organization Studies, 21(3), 567–588.

Milliot, J. (2018, January 19). Nonfiction categories continued to grow in 2017. Retrieved from

Mills, C. P. (2014). Trade book collections to support teaching economics undergraduates: Notes, suggestions, and bibliography. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 19(3), 256–274.

Peterson-Sloss, C. (2013, November). HBR press and EBSCO sign agreement. Information Today, 26.

Pinker, S. (2014, September 26). Why academics stink at writing. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from

Shipley, D. (2016, June 23). Condensed, or just dense? The apps that turn books into 15-minute reads. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Soundview Executive Book Summaries. (2018). About us. Retrieved December 7, 2018, from

Sweet, S. (2017, August 21). Why academics revel in bad writing. The Walrus. Retrieved from

Under the hood: How Facebook built trending topics with natural language processing. (2014, January 16). Retrieved from

Wang, W. M., See-To, E. W. K., Lin, H. T., & Li, Z. (2018). Comparison of automatic extraction of research highlights and abstracts of journal articles. In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Computer Science and Application Engineering – CSAE ’18 (pp. 1–5). Hohhot, China: ACM Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.