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Aussie firm tackles ebook trend

Yesterday Readings bookstores launched an ebooks store based on a distribution platform from an Australian company called Inventive Labs, but it won't be the last bookstore to use the system.

Yesterday Readings bookstores launched an ebooks store based on a distribution platform from an Australian company called Inventive Labs, but it won't be the last bookstore to use the system.

The Readings ebook store

(Screenshot by Suzanne Tindal/ZDNet Australia)

Melbourne-based Inventive Labs had been under pressure from Readings, for which it handles website design, to do something about the ebook phenomenon. And the company had been doing some of its own thinking on that front for years.

It wasn't a fan of Adobe Digital Rights Management-controlled ebooks, as a user would download it and then have the issue of getting it across to a preferred reading device.

"It's too difficult," said Joseph Pearson, co-founder of Inventive Labs.

Instead, the team of four started work on Booki.sh in April last year, which is a browser-based distribution platform that allows readers to buy a book through a retailer's store. The book is then kept in the cloud to be accessed via the browser on e-reader devices, enabled by open-source reader software Monacle.

"HTML offers us a way of caching the book on your device if your device supports it," Pearson said.

Because it's cached on the device as well as in the cloud, readers can access what they're reading even if they're offline.

iPads, iPhones, iPod Touches, Android, Macs and PCs will support it, he said. Although Windows users will have to download a plug-in for Internet Explorer and Windows Phone devices don't support it either, according to Pearson

"Microsoft is way behind the game on HTML5," he said.

At the moment Readings is Inventive Labs' exclusive retail partner, but the idea is to get multiple retailers using the platform. Customers buy the books via retail sites, but the cloud library is mainly free of retailer presence.

Publisher-wise, SPUNC, the Small Press Underground Networking Community which comprises of 60 to 70 publishers is on board, but Pearson said that more would come.

The publishers can upload their own books to the platform.

Inventive Labs provides a percentage of sales to both the publishers and the retailers.

People can upload the ePub format books they already own into the library if they're Digital Rights Management free, Pearson said. However, he added that if those books were bought from a major vendor online they probably aren't.