The popular new online book discussion site BookMuse.com has lauched a BookMuse bookstore partnership, which went online in mid-June. The site, whose motto is "Book Discussions Made Smarter," currently offers overviews, criticism, biographies, readers' reviews and related reading for selected titles. Included for each book are notes for discussion, which can be printed for book group use free of charge.
Kristine Ball, who launched BookMuse in February from her San Francisco office, told PW, "We see the site as a center for enhancing the reading and discussion of books in a thoughtful and insightful yet friendly way." The depth and scope of book discussion on BookMuse goes beyond most publisher-provided book discussion topics and has drawn the interest of booksellers, especially those who serve a large book club clientele. As the site continues to expand and refine itself, Ball thinks the bookstore partnership will be a critical link in making BookMuse a one-stop option for readers and groups of all sizes. The site will continue to add two new adult selections and four children's picks every month. Classics as well as current books are part of the site's wide-ranging mix.
Until now, sales of books featured on the site have been made through Powell's in Portland, Ore., which returned a small percentage of sales to BookMuse.
The new partnership allows BookMuse readers to link to independent stores in their region for information about those stores' book club selections and to buy books through the stores' existing Web sites.
For the pilot program, the country has been divided into regions that correspond with existing regional booksellers associations' boundaries, and 12 key bookstores have joined. Reader's Books in Sonoma, Calif., White Birch Books of North Conway, N.H., and the Book Stall in Chicago are among the group. Other stores that wish to join will be asked to pay an annual fee of approximately $85 for the costs of setting up links to their store. While several bookstores have asked to "syndicate" BookMuse material, much of which is written by literature professors, to post on their own newsletters, BookMuse currently does not plan to sell rights.
Citing low overhead as a company advantage, Ball said she is exploring various revenue models but does not plan to accept primary sponsorship from a single publisher, which might compromise her editorial freedom. Advertising from various publishers and related industries, as well as sales of "classifieds," will be part of a revenue model that is still in progress. Launched with private money to date and with the help of tech-industry friends, Ball, who has not quit her day job as a book group leader, says she will keep her initial focus on creating superior content and service. Without any formal announcement of its presence, the site already attracts nearly 10,000 hits per week.
Several large publishers, including Time Warner, have already approached the company with offers for contests and literacy-related giveaways.