A Summary of Summary Sites

The Upside of the Downturn. All In. Need, Speed, and Greed. Get Lucky. These are just some of the business books published in the last few years that might hold the secret to improving your career and your company. But when faced with nothing but a title and maybe a review or synopsis, how does the busy executive choose which ones are worth reading?

A range of summary websites aim to provide the answer by offering visitors the key points of business-related books, thereby enabling time-short managers and others to understand new approaches and ideas without having to wade through chapter after chapter. Here are three chosen at random from the many available.

One site, getabstract, claims to offer the largest online library of business book summaries. It summarizes thousands of publications into just five pages of the most important points. Books (which are available in various languages) can be browsed via categories such as Leadership & Management, Finance, and Career & Self-Development. Actuarial science-related titles currently include The Retirement Savings Time Bomb, Insurance From Underwriting to Derivatives, and Managing Operational Risk.

Summaries can be downloaded in various formats, such as PDF and MP3, and free samples are available. Annual subscriptions cost from $89 U.S.

Rival site Business Book Summaries says it offers the "best summaries of the best business books". Its categories include Major Works, Social Responsibility, and many more, and it adds: "We believe a summary can provide the basic overview of the book, and give you insights into the author’s ideas. Nothing substitutes for reading the book, but we believe our summaries will help you to get a solid grasp of the lessons in the book, so you can decide which books to read and when to read them."

Its subscriptions cost $95 and upwards, but individual summaries are available for $9.95. As with similar sites, summaries can be downloaded as PDF documents, audio files, and for mobile devices.

Soundview believes it provides "the solution to the ongoing problem of information overload". To do this, besides summaries it also provides webinars from authors plus video interviews with executives from leading companies.

While its website includes similar categories to its rivals, it also includes special features like blogs providing advice from expert authors, a newsletter, a list of the best business books of 2012, and more. It subscriptions cost from $99 U.S., and can incorporate access to an archive of 13 years' worth of material.

Pros: the easy access to hundreds of books; the clear and concise summaries.
Cons: the most extensive subscriptions could be prohibitively expensive to some.

Getabstract: www.getabstract.com
Business Book Summaries: www.bizsum.com
Soundview: www.summary.com