Startup Bilbary seeks to redefine e-book economics

Downloaded titles can be read on your computer, tablet, smartphone or electronic reader and aren't looked to any device.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

The days in which e-books are locked to a specific device or electronic reader could be numbered, if the approach being used by a new e-book publisher, Bilbary.com, finds followers.

The site, launched by publishing industry veteran Tim Coates, launched in a U.S. beta with more than 320,000 titles at the end of March (it is now up to more than 340,000). The site is positioned as a place to find electronic books that transcend any particular format and can be read in whatever format the bibliophile would like -- on a computer, an electronic reader or tablet.

"Our service works on a device, regardless of who has released it," Coates said. "We have tried to look forward to a time when the devices are more common, cheaper and not so branded."

Eventually, he believes e-readers will coast no more than a hardcover book; that way, more people will feel comfortable reading in places or locations that might seem hostile to expensive electronics gadgets.

In essence, Bilbary seeks to explode the current e-book publishing model in which you become pretty much beholden to the sort of device where your "library" of books has been downloaded. Seriously, can you imagine if someone told you that your library of hardcover books was no longer compatible, therefore you couldn't read it anymore?

Bilbary is looking forward to a time when it believes that platform-tied electronic book sales -- or rentals for that matter -- are more common. With a background in public services, Coates is particularly interested in how book borrowing in the future might work. That's a conversation he is having with college textbook publishers and others who are seeking to boost readership without necessarily boosting the price of content out of the range of the intended range.

For the trial period, however, Bilbary is selling its titles, starting with what the publishing world regards as non-agency titles and working out to the bigger publishers over time. At least that is the plan.

You can expect to see Bilbary endear itself to public library services that are seeking to give their patrons access to a wider range of books. "Once a book has been put into ebook form, it won't go out of print," Coates said.

That is simultaneously appealing and overwhelming, don't you think?

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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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