With services such as Spotify and Hulu bringing streaming content to Internet users, the time was ripe for a text-based version. 24symbols gives readers access to books online with an iOS app and a Web-based interface.
Music, films and TV shows have been consumed online for a while now, and streaming media services have become commonplace for these categories. This has not become as well established for books. Following this trend of online media, 24symbols would like its members to read in the cloud. Currently promoting at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the startup offers ad-supported titles to readers for free, and a paid model by subscription. The app is currently available for iOS devices, but one can read books in the browser.
Currently in public beta, the service connects mobile devices to books which can be read online for free with ads, or with the paid model users can read offline without ads. 24symbols lists many English titles that are available via Project Gutenberg, which makes public domain titles available for Web browsing or in various text formats that can be read on mobile devices and e-readers. The Web site is also currently featuring The Parvenu, a translated Dutch bestseller, readable by premium members only. Other than the public domain books, there is a paltry selection of current releases, including a short story trio, self-help book and a green energy non-fiction title. The startup does not have the attention of many publishers, so one can imagine if they win over enough usage, they will have a wider selection of content that can be supported by ads.
As with many cloud media services, 24symbols can plug into a Facebook account for social features. Users can share quotes, as well as see what other folks are reading. The social usability, as well as the content, do not make for disruption, but the participation of books in the cloud category does indicate a resource in the written word that is often underestimated. The Amazon Kindle refresh, proliferation of other e-reader models, and this new company all point to much activity potential for the literary corner of the Internet.