Digital distributer LibreDigital has teamed up with Starbucks and Yahoo! to show off the LibreDigital SkyShelf HTML5 Reader, a new wireless technology that will initially supply e-book content to the Starbucks Digital Network, a new multimedia entertainment service launching this week that will deliver books, music, newspapers, movies and other content to consumers in Starbucks stores around the country. Much like the long-delayed Google Editions service, LibreDigital’s SkyShelf HTML5 technology will allow consumers to read e-books through the web browsers of any kind of device and LibreDigital plans to launch a broader range of SkyShelf-powered partnerships by early November.
The Starbucks Digital Network has launched in 6,800 stores around the country and will offer consumers the ability to sample a wide variety of content through Starbucks free in-store wi-fi. The SDN will deliver its free in-store digital content via a series of online channels—News, Entertainment, Wellness, Business and My Neighorhood—that will include a selective list of previews and excerpts from bestselling books from major publishing houses. E-book content will be delivered principally through the Entertainment channel and includes books selected by the Bookish Reading Club, a service developed by Starbucks to offer selected titles from Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin and Simon & Schuster with content from more publishers slated to come. The channel will also offer content from New Word City, a digital publisher that specializes in offering concise books on business management and travel.
Starbucks stores offer wi-fi access to more than 30 million consumers each month, said LibreDigital spokesperson Heidi Johnson, and she said the partnership will show off the capabilities and potential of LibreDigital‘s SkyShelf Reader. Johnson said the service’s HTML5 technology, which will allow users to read e-book content for free as well as to buy content, is indeed the basis of the much-anticipated Google Editions. E-book content offered through the Starbucks Network will be selective and mostly offered free, but Johnson said some book content will likely be offered for sale as well. “We’ve been working on this technology for 10 years and this is the first way that it will be used,” said Johnson.
But LibreDigital intends to launch a more extensive range of SkyShelf ventures by early November that will allow a wide range of unconventional retailers and venues to offer consumers the ability to browse and purchase e-book content no matter what kind of device—be it mobile phone, tablet, desktop or laptop—they may be using. While she said that LibreDigital will launch “a social commerce experiment that allows readers to discover, buy and read books in new places,” she also emphasized that “it is not a destination commerce site,” and that service is aimed at enabling other kinds of businesses to sell e-books.
Johnson called the forthcoming SkyShelf business ventures a “distributed social retail platform that at launch will feature select bestselling titles from major publishers and will ultimately leverage LibreDigital's broad catalog.” While she declined to give specifics about prices and the number of titles likely to be offered at the next round of SkyShelf ventures, Johnson said the technology will support both the traditional wholesale and agency model pricing structures.
Indeed Johnson vowed that with SkyShelf, “you’re going to see more e-books in more places.” She said that SkyShelf can be used to help publishers “sell direct to consumers,” as well as offer e-books through “airlines, drugstores, coffee shops, wherever. The opportunities to buy and sell e-books are going to expand and expose more people to e-books.”