Free eBooks at Wowio. Wowio indeed. Completely trashes any other eBook etailor in terms of the design and ease of use, works with some big publishers and smacks of quality. Here's what it says if a European tries to log in:
To our international friends…
Due to variations in copyright laws and rights restrictions on many of the books on this site,WOWIO is currently only available to people living in the United States. Our long-term goal is to make all books available to everyone on the planet for free. In the meantime, we ask for your patience.
The range of books is not enough to launch Wowio in any meaningful sense. If it were to be expanded, and if Wowio were to start accepting payments, then it could become a hugely significant retail portal for eBooks. They are a business and they are in the business of giving things away so without charging its hard to see how Wowio will effectively monetize the site. It all comes down to their commitment to free information vs profit margins.
Paidcontent seems worth keeping up with. Despite the dry appearance and style it comprehensively deals with the problem raised above: monetizing websites.
Penguin have launched a new site for teenagers called Spinebreakers. Superb contemporary design, a nice concept and great range of features and functionality is let down only by the proprietary nature of the content: only Penguin books will be featured. What would be good is if we had a Spinebreakers for all teenage fiction. Perhaps this is beyond the scope of a publisher.
I suspect everyone is aware that we are currently in the midst of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Well the theme of this year's event is digitisation. Personally I find the "Web 2.0 Living Room" a bit disturbing and annoying. The first word I think of is bandwagon. What happens in the living room? Do you talk to people on the other side of the room using only facebook?
For the very keen the Institute of the Future of the Book has just started a competition trying to work out the conceptual shape, if such a thing can be said to exist, of the Really Modern Library. Companies aren't allowed to enter but this will be well worth watching (and nothing stops any of us entering as individuals).