Originally founded in 2006, Wowio was one of the first companies to offer ad-supported ebooks – long before Bookboon or Germany’s Readfy. It’s not clear what happened to that earlier service, but Wowio is back again today with the launch of a new service that boasts a catalog of 350,000 titles from Ingram.
Wowio promises that users will be able to read any title for free, just so long as they also see ads. That service won’t actually go live until later this year, but when it does you will be able to read the ebooks via a recently launched Android app (iOS and Windows Phone apps to follow).
I haven’t had a chance to test the app but my competition went hands on and he is not impressed:
At this point it’s a bare bones app that needs a lot of work.
First off, it requires a phone number, among other things, to even get started. Not a good start. I used all zeros and it passed, at least. But then I was met with a wonky user interface with far fewer features than I’m used to with an ebook app.
I wanted to test out an ebook to see how the app performed, but that wasn’t really possible. Currently there are no free ebooks available. The few books that are available are by totally unfamiliar authors, aside from a few public domain ebooks. Some books have nonsensical descriptions. Free samples aren’t even long enough to get you to the beginning of the first chapter, and the two samples I tried didn’t work right—they were laggy to turn pages and sometimes reverted to displaying landscape in portrait mode.
Wowio is going to have to do better than that if they want to keep the attention of readers. There is an excess of free ebooks available from virtually every ebook retailer as well as free ebook sites, none of which have ads. Wowio is going to have to come up with some way to appeal to readers otherwise their new ebook effort will likely be as unsuccessful as their last.
On a related note, I would like to raise a red flag on the claim concerning a 350,000 title catalog. Ingram is a retail distributor, and so far as I know their contracts are based on the concept of selling ebooks, not ad payments. That new business model would likely require agreement from publishers, and I have not heard that Ingram had offered new contract terms to publishers. In short, that catalog of 350,000 titles might not actually exist.
We’ll have to wait and see.