Technology & Science

Indigo Books targets e-book market chapter by chapter

Canadian book retailer Indigo Books & Music Inc. has launched a web service for people who read books and articles online or on mobile devices.

Canadian book retailer Indigo Books & Music Inc. has launched a web service for people who read books and articles online or on mobile devices.

With Shortcovers.com, launched officially on Thursday, the Toronto-based owner of chapters.indigo.ca seeks to expand its audience from people who buy books electronically to people who read them that way — a market that other online retailers such as Amazon.com have targeted heavily in the past two years. Indigo, which bills itself as Canada's largest book retailer, sells books both online and at stores across the country.

Indigo’s new service focuses on providing "bite-sized" chunks of about 5,000 words such as individual book chapters, short stories, blogs, magazines, newspaper articles and pieces written and uploaded by users. That includes "fan fiction" written by fans of specific books, TV shows or movies, using the characters and settings from those books or TV shows.

Free and paid content can be viewed online or transferred to mobile devices using mobile apps that are distributed through iTunes and the Shortcovers website.

According to the Shortcovers official blog, by Friday users in 56 countries had signed up, and more than 1,000 downloaded its mobile applications.

Days after Kindle 2 release

Shortcovers, which promises that it will let people read its content "on any mobile device," came online just days after Amazon.com — whose Canadian site amazon.ca competes directly with Chapters.indigo.ca — released a new version of its popular Kindle e-book reader.

Amazon released its first Kindle in November 2007. At the time, it said it developed the device so it could seamlessly build a service around it, and since then it has sold a range of reading material similar to that Shortcovers is offering.

Amazon recently indicated it plans to make books for Kindle available to mobile phone users in the near future.

Like Amazon, Shortcovers provides a "free sample" of books to potential readers. Users who like the first chapter can buy two more chapters for 99 cents or the entire e-book at a discount of up to half the publisher’s list price.

Companies have shown a growing enthusiasm for e-books in recent months. Google launched a new service at the beginning of February to allow people to read free e-books on their cell phones.

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