Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Subtext Livens Up E-Books With Author Commentary and Social Reading

A new social reading app called Subtext launches today on the iPad, with a selection of books laden with annotations from authors and researchers.

What you’ll find on Subtext is a lot like the special features you’d find on a DVD, but for e-books. And you can create your own annotations.

Subtext’s founders come from the gaming industry and their hope is that readers will comment, endorse and share notes on the books themselves. For that participation they will be rewarded with in-app points to be spent on additional author and expert content.

Subtext works most seamlessly with Google Books but it also supports reading and annotations across editions of the same book on various platforms. “To be social we must be open,” said co-founder Rachel Thomas in an interview last week. Subtext doesn’t yet support proprietary books from distributors like Amazon and Apple.

Thomas was previously at Playdom; co-founder Andrew Goldman was CEO at Pandemic Studios.

At launch, Subtext offers 18 enhanced books, including commentary from George R.R. Martin’s editor and researcher on “A Game of Thrones,” character updates by Frances Mayes for her “Under the Tuscan Sun” and movie scenes and interviews for Lisa See’s “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.”

Readers mark up books with comments, questions, polls and links to Web pages; they can dictate instead of typing; and they can mark anything with a “spoiler alert” tag. They can navigate books page-by-page like normal, hop around through annotations, and see what page their friends are on.

Subtext is iPad-only for now, and is next working on a Web version. The 14-month-old company has 12 employees and raised $3 million in funding from Google Ventures, Mayfield Fund, New Enterprise Associates and Omidyar Network.

See also: my coverage of another social reading start-up called Readmill.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work