Hot on the heels of Google's cloud reading experiment that inflicts yet more classics on our screens, Booki.sh is a partnership between Readings Bookstore, the Small Press Underground Networking Community, and Inventive Labs. The partnership has been fruitful with a combination of great content—Australian writers finally represented and many available internationally—and a slick shopping and reading interface that makes the process quick and painless. As the web site explains:
‘In Booki.sh, an ebook is a web link—we believe books are part of the web in much the same way as a YouTube video is part of the web. It’s always there when you want it, but you don’t “download” anything.’
Now this is great marketing copy, but a niggling question remains: do you ‘own’ a title when you’ve just shelled out fifteen bucks for a web link? The comparison with YouTube might be okay, but I don’t pay for that video of a kid falling asleep into his cereal bowl.
By investing in cloud reading, the team behind Booki.sh demonstrates they are playing a long game and betting that the dedicated ereader—the Kindle and its ilk—will either acquire new functions like web browsing or disappear into irrelevance. Only time, of course, will tell, but the fact that the Kindle is already acquiring games and other apps beyond its reading function would seem to indicate they are onto something.
Regardless, it is heartening to see the great Australian writing available digitally and not tied into any particular device or brand. Many readers have demonstrated they are okay leaving paper behind for pixels, but it will be interesting to see if we are equally comfortable with leaving behind a digital file as well.
For the record, I didn't have a problem with YouTube as a rough analogy to cloud reading. The problem is with the perception of paying for what amounts to a web link. Every attempt so far to put web content behind a paywall—whether in music, newspapers or video—has not succeeded. Then again, as the web becomes a standard feature on everything from phones to fridges, the time might finally be ripe for this kind of model.