Rooster delivers digital books in bite-size installments

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by RENAY SAN MIGUEL / KING5 News

KING5.com

Posted on March 13, 2014 at 12:32 PM

For those who are tired of seeing unread books pile up on their night table, there's Rooster, a new app that delivers books in easily digestible installments to their smartphones.

"What Rooster does it it creates a fiction-reading experience expressly designed to fit the kind of free time busy people actually have - maybe 20 minutes on the train, maybe 15 minutes before bed," said Yael Goldstein Love, Rooster co-founder/editorial director, in an email to KING5 News.

The app, which launched at this week's South by Southwest Interactive festival, sends your iOS device two books a month with similar themes: a contemporary novel and a classic work. For its inaugural month of March, Rooster is delivering Rachel Kadish's "I Was Here" and Herman Melville's"Billy Budd."

For $4.99 a month, Rooster sends you chunks of the books at a time. You decide which days of the week and what times of the day they are sent. "And just like TV episodes, with Rooster you can read one installment or 'binge-read' all installments if you really get swept up," Love said.

What about competition with Amazon's Kindle, which helped introduce digital disruption to the publishing industry? "Rooster is for people who think they don't have time to read," Love answered. "They look at (or think about, in the case of their Kindle) a 300-page novel and they think, 'Nope, no time for that.'"

I asked Rooster co-founder/CEO (and former New York Times reporter) Jennifer 8. Lee how negotiations with publishers were going regarding the acquisition of new content. "Discussions with publishers are generally good," she said. "They are looking for new ways to reach audiences, especially in digital. Of course, some publishers are known for being more experimental than others, and indeed we find those can move the fastest."

Among the so-called "Big 5" publishers - Hachette, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Penguin and Macmillan - Lee said Harper is known for being the open-minded to exploring new digital channels. "And since launch, some publishers we hadn't had relations with have approached us after learning about Rooster," she added.

Then again, the industry found itself involved in a price-fixing antitrust action brought by the Justice Department over Apple's e-book strategy. Won't they be a little skittish when facing a digital business model like Rooster's?

"Some have price parity agreements in place with some of the vending platforms," Lee said. "They don't know how Rooster fits into that since we look like a 'book
club' model. Some large publishing groups are still working out their policies
with subscription services, so the imprints have to wait for central headquarters."

Once those issues are cleared, Love hopes to add more genres like science fiction, romance, mysteries, etc. She doesn't know if the pairing of contemporary and classic books would continue, however. "That's still under discussion," she said. "It would be thrilling to have the sci-fi and the mystery and whatever else all also match up, but we're not convinced it would be feasible to coordinate. Still, a girl can dream!"

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