ValoBox has already gone some way to address the shortcomings of eBooks with its purely browser-based approach and an innovative ‘pay-as-you-go’ payment model that lets readers dip in and out of content and only pay for what they consume. Now the UK startup, in partnership with independent publisher Constable & Robinson, wants to make it easy to gift an eBook, something that’s been somewhat lost as we’ve moved from physical to digital.
In the world of dead-tree media, you simply purchase a book and give it away (apparently you can even read it first, too). But eBooks, often crippled by DRM or by being tied to a user account, make the process less than satisfactory. ValoBox wants to change that.
At its most technical, the company’s new Gift an eBook service is really just a buy one copy, get one copy free affair. But the sentiment is a throwback to the ease of which physical books, or at least the reading experience, can be shared. Users simply purchase an eBook from ValoBox/Constable & Robinson’s catalogue, which includes fiction and non-fiction titles such as “A Visit From the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, crime fiction from M.C. Beaton, and “What Fresh Lunacy is This? The Authorised Biography of Oliver Reed” by Robert Sellers, and then designate an email address for the recipient of the eBook gift.
The recipient receives a link to the eBook and are automatically set up with an account on ValoBox’s cloud-based eBook platform, from which they can begin reading and access their eBook at any time. ValoBox eBooks are browser-based with most modern desktop and mobile browsers supported. There’s an iPhone app, too, for quick access to your “Stash”, aka your cloud-based eBook library on ValoBox. The idea is that eBook reading becomes as simple as accessing the web, being entirely device agnostic — an approach that works quite nicely with the new Gift an eBook offering, especially for the casual eBook consumer.
To that end, Anna Lewis, co-founder of ValoBox, says rather aptly in a statement, “Digitisation has made books more accessible than ever, but some of the magic associated with gifting and sharing those reading experiences has been lost. You can hand someone a paper book without giving them instructions on how to open it, or worrying if they have the right reading device. This partnership with Constable & Robinson has given us the opportunity to address this and match both the thoughtful process of giving a physical book and the delight of receiving one.”
Noteworthy is that the new service was in part made possible after ValoBox won funding from IC tomorrow, the UK taxpayer-funded Technology Strategy Board programme designed to stimulate “innovation and economic growth in the digital sector by breaking down barriers and opening doors for a new generation of entrepreneurs”.
In an email to TechCrunch, Lewis explains how ValoBox’s Gift an eBook offering is being positioned against Amazon’s own Kindle eBook lending programme.
“Gift an eBook doesn’t have the restrictions of the Kindle lending programme. You are actually giving the other person another copy which they can keep and can read at the same time. There isn’t a 14 days restriction and you can continue to read it once you’ve given it to the other person.
“We’re trying to make the experience of giving or receiving a digital book much easier and more charming. The receiver will get a nicely designed email. They will be shown a personalised message and then within one click, they are reading the book, rather than having to sign-up, download files or sync across devices.”