Two-year old BookGlutton.com, the Web-based reading platform that allows members to read and annotate books and form online reading groups, launched a bookstore this week in conjunction with O’Reilly Media. Up to now, BookGlutton users could only read and share annotations for free public domain novels, cookbooks and narrative nonfiction. The social networking site has also offered some free samples of contemporary books. This summer it partnered with Random House to let readers preview four chapters of several new books, annotated by the authors.
However, BookGlutton now has the capacity sell e-books. Through its arrangement with O’Reilly, users can browse and purchase 500 O’Reilly titles, which, unlike a regular e-book download, can be annotated and those annotations shared. The browse system is also unique and meant to replicate the experience of flipping through a book in a bookstore, said BookGlutton president and cofounder Travis Alber. Those previewing a book can see a percentage of the content of each chapter. They can also read the notes that those who have purchased books have written and discuss the sample passages with them. A buy button is embedded inside the text.
“Since launch we’ve steadily worked on building out an e-commerce system that integrates with our social network,” said cofounder and CTO Aaron Miller, who anticipates rolling out new e-books from a number of small publishing houses during the coming months. "The free reads will always be there,” adds Alber, “but we want to have contemporary books, both fiction and nonfiction”
In other news, BookGlutton, which partnered with Stanza late last year to allow iPhone and other PDA users to download works from the BookGlutton catalog, will have its own mobile site by the end of the year. iPhone users will be able to annotate e-books and communicate with others about them directly from the site. Initially the mobile site will only have free titles and promotional materials. But, said Alber, the company plans to rollout a paid bookstore similar to the one now available on the Web.