By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief
Currently in a closed beta, OpenBooks.com is a new ebookstore for self-published titles where readers are allowed to read a sample first, and then decide how much — or if — they want to pay for the title. Titles are available in EPUB, Mobi and PDF, are DRM free and users are encouraged to copy and share titles as they wish. It’s crowdsourcing, reversed.
Based in Warsaw, the company offers writers 70% share of net revenue from any payment.
“I read quite a lot during my travels and I meet a lot of people with whom I wanted to share books I thought were interesting, but I could only send them a link to make a purchase,” said Founder Michal Kicinski, in a press release. “I wasn’t sure if they liked the book I recommended and it all seemed too complicated. In fact even more complicated than simply giving a copy of a paper book. We call it progress, but I think it’s a regress. That’s why we decided to start OpenBooks.com.”
The question now is really, will it work? At first one might think the answer would lie in whether or not the site can attract return visitors to come back to the site, where they might feel prompted to make what is essentially a “donation” back to the author to support their work. But, in what is perhaps the sites key innovation, every ebook — even those copied and passed along — comes with an embedded payment link.
Of course, there have been several efforts to kill off the traditional “pay first, read later” business model for books. Among the companies that got into this space early was Israel’s Total Boox, which has been around since 2003. With TotalBoox, you download a title for free and then only pay according to how much of the book you read. Read 10%, you pay for 10%. And just like OpenBooks.com, titles are DRM free and available for sharing. So far, Total Boox appears to be going strong and with its guarantee of payment, regardless of whether or not a reader liked a book, it has been able to attract several traditional publishers, such as F+W Publications and Other Press, to try out the site — something that may be a distant dream for OpenBooks.com. Alas, let’s wait and see.