Ebooks are great: No longer do we have to lug around weighty tomes when we want to read – we can instead just fire up an app on our phones. There is a problem though: How can you passively boast about how clever you are if your shelf is empty? It seems a new app called BitLit could hold the answer.
One thing that frustrates me most about ebooks is that usually now when buying a physical album, you’ll be offered to chance to download an MP3 copy too – but no one has thought to do this with books. Why can’t I buy one for the shelf, and one for me to actually read on my Kindle?
BitLit aims to sort this out – long after the sale has been completed. The idea is that use the BitLit app on your phone to scan the covers of your books, and it will analyse them and then send you an ereader friendly copy that should work with all of the major readers like Kindle, Kobo and Nook. Brilliant.
The real genius comes in how it satiates the publishers by preventing users from sharing the same physical book to claim multiple copies: In order to get your hands on a digital book, you must write your name in capital letters on the copyright page in pen – and scan that too. This indelibly claims that physical books as yours, preventing it from being scanned again. Similarly, so that publishers don’t miss out, it appears that publishers are able to set a price for the ‘upgrade’ – with some titles on the website currently listed as free and some for a few dollars. This also appears to be how BitLit plans to make money.
The service is rather new at the moment – so is currently focused on the States, but shows what could grow to be a vital service for readers in the future. Similarly, the major challenge for the company at the moment appears to be library: The app is only ever going to be as powerful as the database behind it – if publishers don’t sign up, books won’t be supported on the service.
At the moment, BitLit claims there’s 20,000 titles available – which is quite a way behind the 129 million books in existence, and also behind Amazon’s claimed million book catalogue. I tried scanning some of the books on my shelf and didn’t get a single match… though I suppose a fledgling American company was never going to have a wide range of British political biographies.
Still, BitLit is intriguing – and could change the way ebooks are consumed. Here’s hoping it takes off.