There’s a new player in the ebook world. Welcome Ownshelf!
Ownshelf is a new platform that helps Facebook users connect with their friends for a more social reading experience. It also gives readers a convenient place to share their books across devices. Like Facebook itself, it’s exclusive – the “Bookshelves” you see are specific to your social circle. Since the books you discover are being shared by your friends, it’seems good way to discover books that match your tastes. Additionally, Ownshelf has/will partner with Creative Commons or otherwise share-happy authors (like at the moment, Paulo Coelho) who share their own shelves and their own books with all users.
Sadly, but not surprisingly, rumblings in the author community betray the fear of piracy on Ownshelf. Not only does Ownshelf not even resemble a pirate site, its founder, Rick Marazzani, is adamant that it never will. But even aside from the intention of its creator, Ownshelf’s design is itself deterrent to pirates. Firstly, users sign in with Facebook. Facebook. You know the site that’s known for policing identities, even to the detriment of its users? Yes, that one. While this may shut out a section of readers, it fills a niche for real customers just looking for legitimate ways of reading their own books on multiple devices or sharing perfectly legal material with their friends. Real names mean accountability, and that makes Ownshelf is one of the least likely places you’ll be finding piracy. Moreover, the exclusive nature of Ownshelf and Facebook compounds the deterrent factor. Users share books with their Facebook friends – not everyone on the damn internet. Unlike at, say, the Pirate Bay, users can’t type in, say, “Harry Potter” and download it from whoever happens to have it.
So, authors, lest you seek another Lendink debacle, banish these fears of piracy!
In fact, Ownshelf has other foci than pirates:
1) Public Domain books. We all know that public domain books are available on Amazon, Project Gutenberg, Goodreads and numerous other sites on the web. But Ownshelf adds a social element that makes sharing even easier – on one of the most-used social networking sites in the world.
2) Indie books. That is, indie books by indie authors who want their books read and shared. Paulo Coelho is the author of the moment, and I for one am waiting eagerly to see who will be next.
It’s unfortunate that piracy paranoia plagues innovation in the book world. (Lendink, anyone?) But far from being a rogue pirate site, Ownshelf looks to be an essential tool for sorting through the particularly high masses of legit reading material that even dedicated readers struggle to wade through. Public domain and indie books flood the ebook marketplace. The sheer numbers on Amazon are overwhelming. The social element of browsing the stacks online is indispensable. Swapping shelves with fellow bookworms with the same literary tastes helps us navigate this brave new world of reading.
Of course, Ownshelf isn’t alone. Goodreads is probably the most well-known and most similar platform to Ownshelf. But all manner of book blogs, review sites, fan forums have multiplied to fulfill readers’ needs – and these needs are growing. Mark Coker of Smashwords foresees ebooks taking up to 45% of the US trade book market in 2013. While this may be overly optimistic, it’s pretty clear that the marketplace – and the diversity of books therein – is growing, and growing fast. I for one welcome any new service to help with the growing load.
And it’s not just for readers. As an author, I’m happy to have one more option to share my own projects with my friends and family on Facebook, either exclusively while I work on publishing them, or temporarily while I wrestle out Copyright/Public Domain issues with Smashwords and Amazon.
So here’s hoping Ownshelf survives.
Go check it out before the mob arrives.