Read the Classics, One Byte at a Time

No time for books? As easily as you're reading this -- wherever you are -- you could be becoming well-read.

Since the launch of DailyLit in May, 2007, a community of 150,000 serial book readers has sprung up -- in subways, restaurants, airports and doctors' offices -- using laptops, PalmPilots, iPhones and Blackberries. That person checking messages during the meeting might actually be reading one of 423 installments of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, one of DailyLit's most popular titles.

According to Susan Danziger, CEO of DailyLit, "Our classic titles such as Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick have done well. We've also launched Wikipedia Tours that give you one minute of knowledge in your inbox each day such as Wines 101 (one day Riseling, the next day, Merlot) or the Greek Mythology Tour (a god or goddess to your inbox every day).

"Cory Doctorow's latest book, Little Brother, has done well. Skinny Bitch continues to be one of our most-read. The Three Martini Playdate is also popular, as are a number of the Harlequin books. We've also seen people gravitate toward books like John Kerry's This Moment on Earth: Today's New Environmentalists and Their Vision for the Future, and Banker to the Poor, by Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, which discusses micro-lending as a way to combat global poverty."

Getting the first 551 words of Tom Peters's 100 Ways to Succeed/Make Money only took a few seconds, and came with options to receive the next installment immediately, discuss it in a forum, and suspend or change the delivery settings. Easy enough, but not optimum for everyone. Eric Phipps of New York City, says, "I was using it to read A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay, but my experiment led me to unsub after a week and just buy the book on my own. I think my usage habits may have colored it. I had it set to go to my gmail e-mail early in the morning so I could read it at home before I started my work day as I drank coffee or whatever. If I could have gotten it on something more mobile it may have come in more handy."

But DailyLit is catching on. "Over 250,000 books have been read via DailyLit," Danziger says. "Our readers have helped us grow through word of mouth. In fact, over 95 percent of our readers surveyed said they were either 'likely' or 'extremely likely' to recommend DailyLit to a friend."

That viral recommendation potential, powered by Twitter, a free social messaging service connecting people electronically, was part of President-elect Barrack Obama's campaign strategy to keep followers hooked into immediate updates on the candidate's actions on the trail. What could that mean for books?

"We learned from our survey that 55 percent our readers are women and 45 percent are men. We also have avid readers. Half have read between 10 and 50+ books in the last year."

As a holiday gift, says Danziger, the service "can be set to be delivered on any date and time, and allows you to include a personalized message with each book. In fact, you can put a short message (e.g., 'Love from Albert') in each individual installment, which is a great daily reminder of you. Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol and O. Henry's Gift of the Magi are fun holiday reads -- and available for free."

Currently, says Maggie Hilliard, marketing coordinator, "We have over 800 free books and about 500 books available for purchase. We are looking to add 20,000 titles in the next couple of years."

Brooklynite Damian Higgins is a technology geek and a hardcore Douglas Preston/Lincoln Child fan. If their next books were available via DailyLit, would he consider reading them in this new format? "I DO like the feeling of having a real book in my hand. I haven't gotten a Kindle or any kind of e-book reader yet, so it's hard to say how I feel about reading a book electronically. But I suppose if I could get it way ahead of time, I might read it electronically."

-- Mary Morris

By Ron Charles |  November 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET Mary Morris
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I tried DailyLit for Oliver Twist, and I found it very annoying. The chapters are all broken up and even though you can "read ahead", it drove me so crazy that I stopped reading it. I later picked it up in paperback and found it much more enjoyable.

Posted by: choirgirl04 | November 20, 2008 11:22 AM

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