The recent launch of startups Bilbary and Jellybooks offers exciting possibilities for readers and publishers alike. Both sites have launched in beta and have ambitious intentions of redefining the online book-buying and reading experience.
While various other new book-related sites, like Readmill, place more emphasis on creating a social forum for readers to share their picks, Bilbary and Jellybooks focus on making more titles available and easily accessible to readers.
With more than 375,000 titles already available, Bilbary seeks to bring publishers and agencies to the table to offer what could potentially become the world’s most extensive collection of e-books. Earlier this month the site signed deals with three of the seven largest publishers in the U.S., Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, Inc. and Wiley, and in the coming weeks agreements with the remaining major English language publishers are expected, which will bring the number of available titles on the site to around 450,000.
Founder Tim Coates has enjoyed a distinguished, career in the book industry during which he’s had turns as an author, publisher, library advocate and international bookseller. His depth of experience and expertise will be an essential ingredient in Bilbary’s potential success.
Having a skilled captain at the helm will be necessary when it comes to pursuit of new work to offer on the site. According to Coates, the industry has a great deal of infighting over the issue of digitalization rights between publishers and agencies, which has seriously inhibited the production of new titles in e-book format.
Bilbary aims to provide a library-like experience in which readers will have the option to rent as well as buy. In Coates’ words, “We want people to have fun here. This is somewhere where they can go for a good rummage around, just as in a physical library.”
Taking an interesting new approach to discovering new books is Jellybooks. Though the site will eventually offer deals for buying multiple titles (in its current Beta phase this is not yet available), the focus of the site is to offer more attractive way for readers to find new books and share those finds with friends across social media networks.
While Jellybooks is already live in the U.S. and U.K. Andrew Rhomberg, the site’s founder and CEO, hopes to have versions of the site available in several other countries and multiple languages by the end of the year. He hopes that by putting the fun back into searching for new reading material he can provide a better discovery experience than Amazon, which in his words, “is about as entertaining a retail experience as shopping from the yellow pages.”
With the site’s simple and stylish layout, users can easily scroll through thousands of titles that appear as actual book covers. When clicking on a cover, readers are invited to read the first 10% of the book free of charge, as well as share the selection with friends. Users can also save selected samples on a personalized site-based cloud storage space for later reading. Readers’ selections will also be tracked and the site will occasionally notify users of recommendations and price deals based on their preferences.
Each selection also has a “Buy” option that links to an online retailer from which the book can be purchased. The fact that users are sent to a third party site to make transactions is interesting in that it isn’t the emphasis of their business model. Instead, the Groupon-like deals offered for group favorites is expected to drive revenues by creating special savings for members of the site.