App Review: getAbstract

In a world of digital content, publishersnow a wider range of publishers than ever— while continuing to create bound books, increasingly create digital-only publications. Combine all those books with economics reports from think tanks and talks on the TED stage, and business people looking for the latest insight could spend more time trolling, curating, and reading than they do working and living. So in a world of outsourced assistance and quick returns comes the app getAbstract (free), from getAbstract, the company that condenses the essential lessons from business books and makes them available in a quick-to-read format.

Not only does getAbstract make the ideas in the books instantly consumable, it also gets to know readers and suggest new books to read. Many of the management classics are here, as well as most of the top contemporary business books. But not all; some books just aren’t there, some they tell you they are working with the publisher for an approved summary, and others are represented by reviews rather than summaries.

For those looking to get up to speed on a topic, getAbstract is great. It includes books on strategy, management, customer service—the entire spectrum of business topics, and peripheral topics like science, history, and politics that may influence the way business evolves.

Don’t look to getAbstract for your next book club though; for two reasons. First, they are condensed summaries. If anyone calls you on a chapter quote, you’ll be lost. Second, this is mostly business most of the time. Fiction readers need not apply, nor high school students looking for a quick route to an essay. College students, on the other hand, looking to impress with some references outside the reading material might get some use, but I would recommend they see getAbstract as a pointer to interesting ideas they explore in more depth by acquiring or checking out the actual book.

The real target audience here is the harried business person looking to keep up on all the ideas floating around the business ether.

The iOS app, which runs on iPhone and iPad, provides access to whatever subscription level you have. It allows for search and reading. On the left a list of cascading categories opens up to reveal subcategories, and eventually titles in those categories. Tapping on a title reveals the book.

Book summaries appear beneath the elegant, flat, two-layered menu. The top menu is a universal menu that includes a home button (start), search, favorites, an add to favorites button, reading controls including font size and background color, social media, notifications and settings.

When a book has been tapped, a book specific menu appears that includes audio, comments, annotations and notes. getAbstract is designed not just as a research alternative but as a knowledge bank. Subscribers can leave themselves annotations on abstracts, or comments to the reader community. Some of the summaries have also been narrated. Tapping on audio reads the summary – a great intellectual alternative to another remix of “It’s All About the Base.”

Books can be stored in favorites by topic. But unlike the web, the app does not support creating new favorite categories, which is a negative.  The app is designed to be a reader. On the web, depending on the subscription level, summaries can be downloaded in PDF, Kindle, ePub or audio format so they can be read and listened to beyond the getAbstract website or client. Downloaded abstracts aren't DRM protected, but they are all protected by copyright law. Abstracts are intended for the personal use of the subscriber and may not be copied or otherwise redistributed legally for any purpose. 

If you want a full copy of an abstracted book, a flag running off the right margin reads, “Buy the Book.” It takes the reader to Apple’s book app.  The web version of getAbstract leads with Amazon.

I like the app a lot and use it regularly to browse for new ideas, or research something that I’m working on. It can be improved however. I think getAbstract would do well to integrate with the likes of Dropbox and iCloud to permit downloads of eReader formats from iOS.  I would like to see the app include curation, including the creation of new category folders. Both the web experience and the app need a better way to curate favorites, perhaps a visual drag-and-drop with folders. Currently it is difficult to figure out what folder something is in, or if it is even in a folder. Given they supports the favorites, they need to make favorites metadata much more visible, and the features much more useful.

getAbstract offers several subscription levels:

  • $89 a year for 4 business book summaries of the subscribers choice, followed by 26 more sent based on a profile.
  • $179-200 for 6 or 12 month plans to business books and video talk summaries.
  • $999 a year for unlimited access to business book and video talk summaries, along with finance report summaries.

For individuals, getAbstract can be expensive. The lower-priced version, while reasonable, doesn’t permit much in terms of flexibility. But, if you work for a big company, check out your online corporate library and you may well already have access to getAbstract. That is where I got hooked initially. However you get to it, it is a really good tool for keeping up in a world of where the primary information overload issue isn't finding time to read, but finding time to figure out what to read.

The getAbstract app is only useful to subscribers. For more information see getAbstact's website here. Keep an eye out for occasional promotions that offer free downloads in a no cost trial.

iPhone Life Rating: 3 out of 5 stars for app; 4 out of 5 stars for the service

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Author Details

Daniel Rasmus's picture

Author Details

Daniel Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. He is the author of Listening to the Future, Management by Design and Sketches of Spain and Other Poems. Rasmus teaches at Bellevue College where he teaches Social Media and Personal Branding.