Joining a growing list of services that offer real-time video chat capabilities, Shindig is a recently launched platform that authors and publishers can use to replicate the book tour experience online. Authors can create an account and then present a talk or reading or show a video, as in a webinar. However, Shindig also offers the ability to see other participants via their webcams. As in a real-life author talk, the moderator can call on an “audience member” and bring them “on stage” to ask questions. In addition, participants can see each other and video chat among themselves.

Shindig is the project of founder and CEO Steve Gottlieb, best known for running TVT Records in the 90s, where he showed an early interest in the digital side—TVT was the first record company to stream its entire catalog online. With Shindig, Gottlieb hopes to offer an online platform that can capture the excitement and community of a realtime author event.

Events are open to up to 1,000 people at a time and can be recorded for later use on YouTube or elsewhere. At present, the platform is in beta and offers its services for free, but eventually it will run on a revenue sharing model, in which Shindig will share a percentage of the profits, whether from advertising, book sales or admission fees.

“It’s been clear for some time that the costs associated with book tours are a limiting factor,” says Gottlieb. “Once you move book tours online, your ability to do them goes up very dramatically in terms of the number of people you can reach, the quality of interaction, and the frequency with which you can do them. Authors can be far more accessible to their audiences.”

Since launching at this year’s BEA, Shindig has hosted about 150 author events, including G. Willow Wilson and Jackson Galaxy, mostly set up through recommendations from authors who have already used the service. The company is also in talks with publishers, who are “studying it carefully,” says Gottlieb.

Gottlieb envisions Shindig with wide application for other entities, including bookstores, libraries and magazines, to put on their own events. For instance, author Alan Goldsher is presenting a talk show called Book It with Shindig; future guests include Joel Stein and Jonathan Maberry.

“This platform will really take off when people like Alan begin to pioneer communities,” says Gottlieb. “People can interact and use all the tools in a shared environment. This is a book experience that has a dynamic more than the sum of its parts. “