Penguin to Let Londoners Read eBooks for Free on the Underground

penguin undergroundPublishing is going through a "throw it up against the wall and see what sticks" phase, and one idea that has stuck is letting people read ebooks for free in public places.

The Drum reports that Random Penguin UK  has partnered with the London Underground and its contractor, Virgin Wifi, to let riders read ebooks or listen to audiobooks for free:

In collaboration with Transport for London (TfL) and Virgin Media's Wifi service, Penguin has created a dedicated mobile-first site called Summer of Penguin where passengers will be offered a daily choice of stories from the publisher to read or listen to during their journey.

The program is going to run until 28 August. According to Hannah Telfer, the group director for consumer and digital development at PRH UK, the collaboration will allow the company to deliver content from its authors, which include Harper Lee, John Cleese and Terry Pratchett, to new audiences.

Random Penguin UK is going a long list of publishers and retailers which are partnering with transportation companies (plus the occasional museum or hotel) to let readers have free access to ebooks on planes, trains, buses, and the occasional airport terminal.

Kobo, B&N, and the Japanese ebook retailer Booklive have all worked out special deals to put ebooks in front of travelers, and even Amazon is getting in on the act (only smarter; Amazon has a deal with JetBlue to sell content, including ebooks).

And so has Random Penguin, which has a partnership here in the US to provide excerpts to Amtrak passengers.

With all this interest in catching the attention of digital readers when they're normally offline one has to wonder whether these marketing efforts generate sufficient sales to justify the costs.

That is a difficult question to answer. Does anyone know?

I don't know that this is being publicly discussed, but I can report on one startup that is taking the more direct approach to making a buck.

Most of the partnerships mentioned above are designed to last only for a short time and offer a limited selection, but a startup by the name of Rook has more ambitious plans. This company is launching a retail platform that will let coffee shops, transit systems, and other locales set up a localized ebookstore on their respective Wifi networks.

The Drum

About Nate Hoffelder (11579 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

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