May 23, 2007 / 12:31 AM / 12 years ago

E-mail brings books in small doses for commuters

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Never had time to read “Moby Dick” and want something weightier than spam to read on your Blackberry on the way to work?

A customer browses books at a Barnes and Nobles in New York City in this June 19, 2005 file photo. A new Web site is offering to send classic books in bite-size installments to your handheld device or e-mail every morning before you go to work, or whenever you want, for free. REUTERS/Seth Wenig

A new Web site is offering to send classic books in bite-size installments to your handheld device or e-mail every morning before you go to work, or whenever you want, for free.

The e-mails from www.dailylit.com are designed to be read in under five minutes. Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days” comes in 82 parts while Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” could take nearly two years of working days to read at 430 parts.

“Our audience includes people like us, who spend hours each day on e-mail but can’t find the time to read a book,” DailyLit co-founder Albert Wenger said.

The company was launched in May with a list of around 370 mostly classic titles, though the Web site has been operating on a trial basis for several months. Wenger told Reuters 50,000 people had signed up, registering for over 75,000 titles.

Since the books are out of copyright the company can offer them for free, but it plans to expand and start charging a fee for newer titles licensed by major publishers within four or five weeks. The e-mails are free of advertising and the revenue model will depend on fees, sharing revenues with publishers.

“We’re looking to charge under $5 per title,” Wenger’s wife and co-founder Susan Danziger, who used to work for publisher Random House, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

“Publishers like it because it’s a new format they haven’t yet exploited,” she said, adding that she was in talks with publishers about releasing advance installments of new books before publication date that would help market the titles.

Language course specialist Berlitz is one of five companies that have already struck deals with DailyLit, which will soon be offering five-minute daily language lessons.

Jim Milliot, director of business and news at Publishers Weekly, said DailyLit was among a handful of companies experimenting with new ways to “slice the pie” of book publishing to make money out of new technologies.

“Quite frankly nobody quite knows how to monetize all this digital stuff yet,” Milliot said.

TOP TEN

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) said on Tuesday sales of e-books jumped 24.1 percent to $54 million in 2006, but that is still only a tiny fraction of the total U.S. book sales of $24.2 billion last year.

The e-books category, however, refers only to books sold specifically for dedicated devices such as Sony’s E-Reader and would not include services by companies like DailyLit and Mobifusion, a firm that delivers content to cellphones.

A top 10 list of popular authors on DailyLit includes Austen, Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and — appropriately for an service offering books in installments — Charles Dickens.

For impatient readers caught up in the plot of “Sherlock Holmes” DailyLit does allow more than five minutes reading a day. “If a reader is done with a particular installment, a reader can receive the next installment immediately,” it says.

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