German ebook app developer Readmill has announced a partnership with Penguin UK to produce an ereading option that seems to want to sidestep Amazon and other ebook distributors and go direct to the consumer from the Penguin UK website.
“Now when you purchase ebooks from Penguin UK, you can send them instantly to your Readmill library. We’re honored to provide a beautiful mobile reading experience for some of the world’s most well-loved books,” reads the Readmill blurb. “Look for the Send to Readmill button the next time you purchase an ebook at penguin.co.uk.”
According to coverage in The Guardian, the deal applies only to titles that Penguin UK itself holds the digital rights to, some 5000 authors. Titles in the portfolio of the broader Penguin Random House group are not included.
This isn’t the first attempt lately in UK publishing to create an alternative ereader app that links buyers directly to the publisher’s own list, without going through Amazon, Kobo or other intermediaries. HarperCollins tried something similar recently with its C.S. Lewis and Narnia portals and Accenture partnership, levering the HarperCollins reader. As with that exercise, though, the Penguin/Readmill partnership also seems to lack any convincing mechanism to actually drive readers to use its app and its site instead of the Kindle Store, or the Nook or Kobo options.
I’m not immediately sure where any modern ebook reader in the UK or elsewhere would go first to browse for new titles, but I strongly suspect it’s going to be Amazon, or some other online bookseller, rather than to the publisher direct. After all, isn’t that how the book trade used to work? And Penguin UK isn’t exactly helping out Britain’s embattled bricks-and-mortar bookstores by setting itself up as an Amazon ebook alternative.
My personal experience, and my expectation, is that once you have an ebook app you tend to stick to it. At most you might have two or three. But dispersing your ebook library between a host of different apps from different providers doesn’t seem like an optimal outcome for consumers. And I don’t see any signs of Penguin UK doing the one thing that could really convince people to use its partner: Pulling its titles from Amazon and the other rivals. Without that kind of courage (read: Suicidal rashness), exercises like this seem just fiddling at the edges.
Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Nate Hoffelder from The Digital Reader for pointing out inaccuracies in an earlier version of this article. We’ve made some tweaks to fix them.