Over the past few weeks I have covered so many stories of publishers and retailers giving away free ebooks on planes, trains, submarines, and gyrocopters that I didn't think there was anything new to say, but Simon & Schuster has surprised me.
PW reports that S&S has partnered with Foli "to offer customers complimentary access to a selection of full-text e-books in airports, museums and hotels around the country. Beginning May 15, David McCullough's The Wright Brothers will be a feature selection at the National Air & Space Museum and 50 venues around the country. Another 18 titles will be available though a select group of hotels and airport lounges."
What's interesting about this is that Foli isn't just your average tech company. They're not quite, as PW reported, a content delivery service, either.
Instead Foli builds and maintains landing pages for hotels, museums, and other companies to display on their public Wifi network. Have you ever accessed a hotel's public Wifi and seen hotel info, local weather, shopping, and other useful info? That is the kind of page which Foli builds, and best of all Foli also pitches its service as being able to display "unlimited custom content with our virtual bookshelf. The shelf stretches infinitely to host all hotel materials and magazines without slowing down service."
Foli has deals with all sorts of companies to offer unique pages for each location. From a publisher's perspective, this more or less makes Foli a highly-targeted marketing channel, and S&S is taking full advantage.
One of the first titles in the program, David McCullough's The Wright Brothers, will be free to read at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. You'll have to have Foli's app on your mobile device, and the ebook will expire after 3 days, but that's a small price to pay.
Foli hasn't gotten a lot of attention when it comes to letting guests read sbooks for free, but it has gotten press (dating back to 2013 and before) for the magazines and newspapers offered through its digital bookshelf.
And now the idea is being adapted to ebooks.
Foli could offer a free ebook in hotels which are located near the ebook's setting. The Kinsey Milhone mystery noels, for example, could be targeted at hotels in Southern California. Or, Foli could offer SF and fantasy titles at conference hotels during Comicon, DragonCon, and other conventions.
Foli might also partner with the DMV and give away copies of Dante's Inferno. The possibilities are only limited by Foli's existing relationships.
In all honesty, folks, this is perhaps the single best free ebook idea I have read in the past month. I'd love to see it more widely adopted.
That said, I also hope Foli gets better at targeting. McCullough's book (as well as 18 other S&S titles) will be made available in airports across the US. I seriously doubt anyone will really be that interested in the Wright brothers when they are flying themselves; no one wants to be reminded of how many times the Wright's crashed before they succeeded.