At half-a-million members, The Reading Room is less than a tenth the size of the leading books-focused social networking site, Goodreads, but it has something its largest competitor currently lacks: An ebook store and an e-reading app. The company is also working on adding physical books to its store.
Sydney-based The Reading Room will be announcing this week that it sells ebooks out of a catalog of nearly half-a-million titles from more than 180 publishers, including “all of the majors,” according to the press release. A list of the publishers obtained by Digital Book World does indeed include all of the big-six including every other major U.S. publisher.
“What we are doing is providing publishers with a single way to accomplish multiple goals: reaching a global, qualified, purchase-ready audience of readers;providing them with curated and expert reviews and recommendations, capturing the consumer shift to reading on tablets and smartphones with an agnostic ebook solution that works on both iOS and Android; and getting rich consumer data on reading and buying behaviors,” said The Reading Room CEO Kim Anderson in the statement.
The site has actually been selling ebooks quietly since Jan. 2013, but didn’t want to make an official announcement until now to work out all the kinks in the technology and to delay marketing outlay for financial reasons, according to Lance Ellisor, the company’s vice president of product and marketing.
The technology behind the company’s new reading app is powered by Bluefire, the same white-label vendor that book retail start-up Bookish uses to power its reading app. The ebook fulfillment is being run by distributor Baker & Taylor.
While the company doesn’t have Amazon or Nook set in its sights, it intends to build a niche customer base of passionate readers.
“Since what we are doing is rather holistic — a sort of intersection of reading community, personal recommendations from experts, and the ability to buy & read — I think that it’s best-suited for readers with a passion: for a genre, for an author or series, for sharing, or for just finding great books from other people who love to read,” said Ellisor. “What we’re doing may not necessarily be the best fit for the casual, one-or-two-books-a-year type reader, and we have no illusions about competing with the really big e-tailers.”
There has been some speculation that Goodreads, the largest social reading network with over 12 million members, might pivot to sell books. Currently, it has a sizable affiliate revenue business through Amazon and others, which could be in jeopardy should it turn to selling books.