Lesen.net has the scoop that the German national airline Lufthansa has partnered with the Hamburg-based social reading startup Sobooks to open an in-flight ebookstore.
Starting in 2016, readers on Lufthansa's long-haul flights will be able to buy ebooks on their smartphones and tablets. Passengers will get destination-based recommendations, be able to read samples, and share and discuss passages online.
Passengers will be offered deals based on their destination (NYC guidebooks on a New York bound flight, for example). If a reader finds a book they like they can buy it mid-flight, but I'm not sure why they would want to. According to the press release, Sobooks platform is online-only, with the ebook readable on any Internet-enabled device (the FAQ confirms this detail).
The Sobooks platform has the convenience of working in any web browser but it also has the defect of not working offline. As a result, Sobooks and Lufthansa customers are not only stuck with an ebook trapped in a niche platform, they'll also have to pay for a data plan if they want to access the ebook on their trip.
Sobooks has said that they plan to release an offline reader in November, which means it should be available before the Lufthansa partnership kicks off next year. But even so, I think Lufthansa should have found a different partner for this deal.
One of the things I like the most about Germany is that the major publishers have all opted for digital watermark DRM and thus removed one of the technical issues that sometimes trips up ebook sales.
It's now easier than ever to sell and deliver ebooks, and Lufthansa should have found a partner who can do that in-flight, and not this half-assed online-only nonsense. A real ebook service would have been very useful to Lufthansa passengers, but instead they'll be getting one that is recycling all the best ideas from 2012.
Oh, well. There's always next year.
image by BriYYZ