October 10, 2013

What a real “Netflix for Books” might be like


The first three pages of your new book are blurry while the rest of the book loads.

You can binge-read a whole series from an acclaimed author over a snowy weekend in January, since it will flip to the next volume in less than a minute (so you won’t have time to even think about sleeping, eating, or accomplishing anything before Monday).

It would find matches to your interest so astonishingly specific you’re almost embarrassed to look at them. “Hard-hitting nonfiction about the environment written by authors with charming eyebrows who appeared on that episode of The Colbert Report you just watched.” “Historical fiction set between 1754-65 featuring a witty female protagonist with your hair color who discovers family secret that will change her life forever.” “The international award winner your friend recommended after he read 10% of it at the library but he had to return if after two weeks because there was already a long waiting list.”

The search feature could use some work.

You and your friends could hack into someone else’s reading device when you’re at her apartment late in the evening and nothing seems more hilarious to all of you than downloading the Fifty Shades of Grey series and anything recent titles from Stephenie Meyer. She’s still kind of mad about it.

It won’t upload any books from college you were thinking about rereading tonight because your Wi-Fi is inexplicably slow. Maybe that lousy Global Internet is to blame.

It conveniently holds your place in every title you’ve downloaded, but also reminds you of the percentage you have yet to complete in every book you’ve expressed interest in reading.

It requires a log-in and randomly generated password you’ve been meaning trying to guess over and over again. You are wishing for a photographic memory and trying to visualize the index card taped to the router in your parents’ house. You have to call them and ask them to repeat it again, saying all of the capital letters louder than the lowercase ones.

It throws at least three titles no one has ever heard of into every category marketed to you. These titles are almost identical to the others on your list, except they contain more stoner jokes than the one you just read. You didn’t know there was a Primo Plant gardening guide for mountain living until you finished Alice Munro’s The Bear Came Over the Mountain.

It features the lowest-ranked books in any category for fans of books that are so bad, they’re kind of good.

It will eventually split into two companies, one that deals in physical copies of the book and one that deals with streaming. The company’s new social media manager will be Jason Castillo.

Hey, the “Netflix for Books” pitch has been overused — in headlines for Oyster, Scribd, ad infinitum. Let’s give it a rest.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.