Legible.com is a new browser-based, mobile-first digital reading and publishing platform that is currently in beta. The site, based in Vancouver, presently functions much like an online bookstore, allowing users to purchase books, but it also plans to offer several additional options for publishers and consumers, including an all-you-can-read subscription model and a sponsorship model, which will allow an individual or institution to pay to unlock a book or several books for a specific audience to read for a period of time for free.
“We aim to democratize, decolonize, decarbonize and decentralize the publishing industry,” Kaleeg Hainsworth, CEO of Legible, said. Hainsworth worked in digital publishing for 25 years and was founder of Bright Wing Media, which produced content for publishers and independent authors.
Hainsworth's overriding goal is to make books more accessible. "Billions of people do not have accessibility to reading or publishing. Either they cannot afford a device or books or are not privileged enough. Yet, for example, 475 million people in Africa have phones and, thus, should have access to reading. True accessibility demands that reading can be done in a browser, which is central to what Legible offers.”
Another focus of Legible.com is ensuring books are, literally, legible: beautiful and easy to read on a screen, no matter what the size. “Our books are not dumbed down versions of ePubs, they are the actual book served in their original glory and elevated through our reading system, right on the browser,” Hainsworth said.
Hainsworth said curation was central to Legible’s core identity. “We're taking a human-centered curation approach," he said, emphasizing that the site if focused on offering quality books, rather than quantity.
Legible’s in-the-works subscription model will cost $14.99 a month and offer a 60/40 revenue split, favoring the publishers.
The sponsorship model enables an organization to pay to allow anyone who wants to read a given title or shelf of titles for a period of time for free. Hainsworth hopes it will attract schools or institutions aiming to promote their values through reading. The company itself will sponsor free reading as well. “Sponsored reading is very important to us,” he said. “Literacy is another big driving value that we have and we want to use our platform to help promote and conserve literacy around the world.”
Initially, Legible is focused on Canada and the United States and has attracted a handful of publishers to sell books on the platform as part of the beta test, including Grove Atlantic and Open Road Media. This is in addition to 30,000 free and public domain titles.
The company also offers Legible Publishing, which allows authors to self-publish their work, and which Hainsworth described as, “the other hemisphere of the brain of Legible." It it comes with the same core values. “It is built with all the same requirements for accessibility, integrity, beauty and sustainability, because we see the opportunity to give this to people around the world for people who have never had access to publishing. This way we can promote cultural diversity.”
Legible has attracted international investment. It currently has some 40 employees, including Cameron Drew and Malcolm Neil, formerly of Kobo, who are co-leading development of content and strategy.
“We are unambiguously ambitious,” Hainsworth said. “We are a Canadian company, but we are making a global play. I think there is no better time in history to do this, to make a company with integrity that makes reading equitable accessible to so many. It is our destiny to do this.”