October 11, 2012, 8:30 AM — Bookshout is a 'social reading' service/app that I haven't paid much attention to because I'm an old Luddite who prefers to keep his own company while reading a book. If you're not like me you might be interested in Bookshout's ability to embed conversations about a book right there in the (electronic, of course) pages of the book. In the meantime I'll keep waving my cane and yelling about how not every single activity needs to be 'social.'
That said, Bookshout just added a new service to its toolbox and this one does interest me. As outlined over on PaidContent, Bookshout now lets you "import" books from your Kindle and Nook libraries into your Bookshout account.
The quick explanation of how they do this: it's like iTunes Match for ebooks. When you "import" your books, Bookshout really just peeks at your existing collection and then if it offers the same book in its own library, it unlocks that book in your Bookshout account. So it isn't really importing anything and isn't defeating the DRM on existing Kindle or Nook books. The PaidContent piece goes into a lot more depth on this.
I love this idea — being able to gather all my ebook libraries into one place — but Bookshout needs to step things up. First it needs to support iBooks and Google Play Books in addition to Kindle and Nook books. Second it needs to broaden the books it supports; PaidContent's Laura Hazard Owen found Bookshout's coverage fairly spotty and I concur. I have about 90 books in my Kindle library and Bookshout only imported 24. Third, it needs to put its reading app on more platforms (currently it's iOS only). Android and Windows Phone 8 versions, please!
I love ebooks but I don't love feeling locked into one particular ebook store. If someone gives me an iTunes Gift Card I want to be able to buy a book without the hesitation caused by knowing I'd have to read it on my iPad. If Google offers a great deal on a novel I want to read, I don't want to worry about getting it onto a Kindle. Ebooks should be device agnostic.
There are tools out there they let you strip the DRM from your ebooks and then use something like Calibre to gather them all into one place, but that first step puts you up against DMCA laws in the US. Bookshout detours around DRM and in theory should make the whole process easy.
The bad news, of course, is that as cool as this idea is for readers, it isn't at all cool for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple or Google, and Bookshout anticipates some sort of retaliation from Amazon and B&N. If they come out of that battle intact then they may be on the way to offering a service that makes life a little bit more pleasant for fans of ebooks.
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