With the historical addition of the bestselling eBooks category on the prestigious New York times bestsellers list and this weeks launch of Google eBooks, there’s been a lot of buzz on the internet as this relatively new platform for book-reading hits the mainstream. This years explosion of tablet devices and low-cost e-readers has had purists up-in-arms proclaiming the death of traditional publishing. While others, such as publishers and authors, have gradually begun to embrace the medium with the lure of reaching many more readers than ever before. Whatever side of the argument you’re on, the written word will continue to command huge profits and is here to stay. It’s no surprise too then, that eBooks and the proliferation of social networks are fueling the rise in popularity of social reading websites.
Launched in 2007, GoodReads made a splash as one of the first social networks catering to book lovers and now boasts close to 4 million members. You can list books you’re currently reading or would like to read, write reviews and get recommendations from friends. You can also buy, sell or swap books in the sites book marketplace. Recently the website began offering out-of-copyright eBooks and has grown a thriving community of authors who can publish their works online and use social networking for promotion.
Social reading startups such as Copia are also vying to make a big splash in social networking world, using Facebook Connect and an assortment of social sharing features to capitalize on the fast growing trend. Having only launched a few weeks ago, it already features it’s own desktop reader and iPad app. It doesn’t have the built-in community of GoodReads but the company is certainly holding it’s own as it climbs to steal market share from eBook titans such as Amazon, which does not have any social platform to speak of within its Kindle marketplace. The company originally planned to sell eReader devices similar to Amazon but abandoned that project, smartly so, instead choosing to focus on software. Disappointingly, Copia still lacks major publisher support and it’s eBooks are some of the most expensive I’ve seen – almost double for the same book offered in Kindle format at the Amazon store.
Even mobile players like RIM are jumping on the bandwagon and building in interesting social features into it’s products, like with the upcoming Playbook tablet and a planned release of a BBM integrated Kobo app. For the most part Kobo has been playing catch-up in the competitive eReader market, but an exclusive app backed by the Blackberry maker that allows quick messaging and recommendations through it’s own eStore could turn things around very quickly.
GoodReads and smaller players like Library Thing and Shelfari have had the advantage of slowly developing a community over time. The challenge for new social reading players like Copia and RIM (and inevitable efforts from Amazon and Google) will be to persuade ever-fickle book enthusiasts that their service is the best. Splashy marketing and far reaching availability through apps and hardware to build a user base will certainly accelerate that, but communities and widely adopted social networks take to build.
Regardless of whether you’re a traditional book reader or a digital e-Reader enthusiast there will certainly be no shortage of places online to indulge in your passion for books.