They are hoping to harness word-of-mouth advertising to build buzz for their upcoming titles, only instead of using a service like NetGalley to get review copies into the hands of book bloggers First to Read is targeted at the average booklover.
“First to Read is a program created for all readers, providing exclusive, early access to our upcoming books. We know people love to talk about and recommend the books they’ve read and are reading, and to encourage that, we’ve integrated social sharing throughout the site,” said Suzie Sisoler, Sr. Director of Consumer Engagement.
The program is live now and it includes titles like Hotshot by Julie Garwood, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, Sister Mother Husband Dog by Delia Ephron, A Disloyal Prof by Pilar Lofos, The Childhood of Jesus by J. M. Coetzee, and many more.
The ebooks are available in unproofed copies and are regrettably encumbered by Adobe DE DRM. Yes, Penguin has launched a program that implicitly assumes that the readers Penguin is trying to sweet talk are all thieving pirates.
And given how easy it is to remove DRM, there's also the implied assumption that the readers participating in First to Read are too stupid to figure out how to remove the DRM that is stopping them from sharing the ebook.
Smart move, that.
P.S. This would normally be the spot where I would suggest using a less user-hostile form of DRM, say digital watermarks. But I already made that suggestion a few weeks ago in a post about HarperCollins' new digital galley program and I don't see a need to repeat myself.