* Digital book service by subscription
* Free reading with advertisements
* Tiny firm takes aim at giant Amazon
By Cristina Fuentes-Cantillana
MADRID, July 4 (Reuters Life!) - Tiny Spanish firm 24symbols
has launched a digital book reading and sharing site modelled on
European digital music service Spotify, aiming to generate
income from publicity and subscriptions.
Users can read books for free if they accept viewing display
ads in the margins, or pay a monthly fee to read without
commercial publicity. The service was launched on Thursday and
is currently available on computers and telephones.
"The advantage for users is they can read for free, if they
view a bit of publicity," said Aitor Grandes, chief executive of
the small firm, told Reuters in an interview.
The company aims to attract 8.5 percent of its users into
premium subscription accounts.
Grandes said 24symbols -- the name refers to the Greek
alphabet -- would help fight piracy that has plagued the music,
publishing, movie and television industry online by keeping
material on servers rather than allowing it to be downloaded to
individual consumer devices.
"If you make available an easy-to-use service with
reasonable prices people won't spend time going to pirate
networks to download things," he said. "Time is money."
24symbols will be a small player attempting to take on some
giant rivals, such as Amazon.com Inc's Kindle for
downloadable books, Barnes & Noble Inc's digital books
and reading services already available on Apple's iPad.
Google is also working on an online books project.
Grandes said 24symbols is different from all those
competitors because of its subscription model, which means
people don't have to pay for each individual title, and because
of its integration with social networking sites.
The company will distribute 70 percent of revenue to
publishers in proportion to pages read by consumers. Also,
publishers will be able to see how many their books are shared
and recommended through social sites.
Currently 1,000 titles are available -- almost all classics
in the public domain -- in Spanish, English, Portuguese and
Dutch, and Grandes hopes to reach 30,000 titles by the end of
24symbols is also awaiting Apple's approval for its iPad
Grandes said he was seeking financing.
"To market a bit, to keep having a quality product and be
able to get international content we will need to get another
round of financing. We're looking at risk capital from the U.S.
and Europe," Grandes said.
(Editing by Inmaculada Sanz and Fiona Ortiz)