Developed in partnership with American Express and HarperCollins, Bookshout's new program offers readers the chance to download up to 6 free HarperCollins titles each month through the airport's free Wifi. The books can be read in Bookshout's apps for Android and iPad/iPhone or via its website.
HarperCollins will be giving away 6 different titles each month for the next year. The first set of free ebooks will include:
- The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
- Us by David Nicholls
- The Crazy Game by Clint Malarchuk
- We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler
- The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King
- Against a Darkening Sky by Lauren B Davis
Unlike Penguin's program to serve excerpts to Amtrak passengers, this program gives away free content which can only be accessed in one tiny walled garden.
I don't see how that would be very appealing (better to partner with Enthrill and give away ebooks in the major ebookstores), but what I find more interesting is that this program isn't actually that new.
A little bit of digging turned up the detail that Bookshout's new program is either expanding on or replacing a program launched by Entertainment on Cloud 10 earlier this year. Cloud 10 is AmEx's loyalty program in Canada, and it started giving away ebooks and music at Toronto-Pearson in February 2015. The ebooks were provided by HarperCollins.
I can't find many additional details on that earlier program, and from the general lack of coverage it's safe to say that no one noticed that program launching (not even the Toronto native I know), even though it was available to all travelers.
That general lack of consumer awareness reminds me of the problems faced by Oyster and Scribd. A recent poll showed those two ebook subscriptions are relatively unknown to American consumers, which is part of the reason way they have far fewer subscribers than Kindle Unlimited.
This same general lack of consumer awareness will probably impact Bookshout's new program, as well as Rook. This startup wants to offer a location-based ebookstore similar in concept to the Bookshout program mentioned at the beginning of the post.
Rook already has coffee shops and a couple transit systems interested in adding its ebookstore to their Wifi networks. This would be great news for a startup if not for the consumer awareness problem. So long as consumers don't know about the service, they can't use it.
Instead they will continue to use their current reading app, or perhaps instead browse the web or visit a social network. Either way, it's lost business for the startup and the publisher.
image by Richard Hsu