Books are becoming electronic like every other form of print media, but they still lag in their social skills. A startup called Rethink Books wants to incorporate sharing features into every electronic book and turn them into social books. I caught up with founders Jason Ilian and Jason Johnson today at the TedxEast conference in New York City, where they presented a demo f their yet-to-be-released product. I caught up with them in the hallway and got a quick demo which I captured on video.
What CEO Ilian is showing is an iPad app, but this app could work on other devices, including e-readers. You see the familiar bookshelf with your books, but you can also connect with your friends on Twitter and Facebook and within the Social Books app itself to see what books are on their bookshelves. As you read a book, you can highlight and create notes, as well as see the highlights and notes of your friends (in different colors). Excerpts could be shared via Twitter or Facebook with a link back to an excerpt page, along with a link to buy the book. There is an activity stream view, where you can see all the comments and recent reading activities of the people you follow.
We’ve seen some of these concepts before. Digital comic book app Graphic.ly comes to mind.. And even the Kindle allows some sharing via Facebook and Twitter. But nobody has really turbocharged sharing for electronic books yet.
Rethink Books isn’t necessarily going to solve the problem, but at least they are approaching it in the right way. The company is approaching publishers who want to put out electronic book titles as individual apps, and Rethink is hoping to power the social sharing features of those books. If Apple and Amazon decide to open up their electronic book marketplaces, they could create a book reader for the their digital books as well.
It seems unlikely that Amazon or Apple would ever do that because they want to control their respective digital book markets and offer a consistent experience. In a way, these social books remind me a little of Shelfari, the social reading service Amazon bought two years ago. But why isn’t that built into the Kindle by now? Maybe opening up digital bookstores to outside innovation isn’t such a bad idea,