Early last year, I set out to build a new framework for how book summaries were delivered within collado.io.
Since the very beginning, book summaries were all about distilling and collecting the takeaways I would get from books. A tool to cement and remember what I have learned from them, but also the place I would come back whenever I felt like reviewing any given title. What started out as a reactive feature to prevent my own “data loss”, ended up being a well of knowledge for future reference.
(a place to) summarize and publish the books I’ve read (and also re-reading and migrating the notes from old ones) in order to create a knowledge base of sorts — independent from pansa, of course.
However, they turned out to be not as useful as I expected. Excessive copying and pasting from the source material and the lack of original content (i.e. my own thoughts or words about it) made them too long and difficult to digest. An approach that defeated the very purpose of the summaries. Their main goal was to retrieve, on-demand, in a glimpse, the books’ golden nuggets. Yet they failed at its most fundamental value prop.
That blog post was just me acknowledging book summaries were not working as intended and a (public) assertion that signaled my resolution to fix it. Shorter reads. Less copy and paste. More original content. Enhanced connection with other ideas.
The outcome was clear. The output not so much.
Almost a year has passed. More books have been published under the old framework. I didn’t have a convincing solution to deliver such a feature. Yet. It was not until a few weeks ago, after reading Awareness and Essentialism (which curiously was never summarized) that I came up with an answer.
Rather a simple one: do less, but better.
God is not attained by a process of addition to anything in the soul, but by a process of subtraction.
Last year, when I started to mull over this new approach, I had something “grandiose” in mind. A big feature. Discoverability. Interactive content. Recommendations. Filters here and there. You name it, the list was endless.
However, it all felt like too much. When in fact, the answer was to be found on the other side.
My initial aim was to create a repository of summaries with a lot of features on top to discover and connect the content. In other words, I wanted to (re)create Blinkist all along.
But then I started to look at the problem from a pure product perspective and asked myself: “why people visit and read collado.io in the first place”?
It is not because the site is full of features. Rather the opposite — it is minimal and simple on purpose. It is not because the content is particularly good. I’d never claim such a thing. They visit because its content is unique in its own peculiar way. It is my distinct view of the world. Not the best one, maybe not even a good one, but one that can’t be found somewhere else.
Hence, following the same logic, book summaries might need not be distinct from other posts. Readers come here expecting to hear a genuine voice. If somebody wanted to read a summary of the book, they could easily grab a better one someplace else.
Does this approach run against visits and attracting new readers? Sure it does. But this blog has never been about counting page views. It has always been more of a public journal of sorts, the place where I’d collect my thoughts and cement new ideas.
I’ve always thought that we all have a limited amount of “love” to share with the world. It is up to us how we split it. Some opt for giving little love to a lot of people, others prefer to give larger chunks to a handful. I’ve always erred on side of the later.
Book summaries must be no different. Indistinguishable from other blog posts in their spirit — yet they are keeping the 📖. An opportunity to pin down my train of thought through the lens of the book. Just a short narrative that would blend the book’s takeaways with my beliefs and current state of mind.