Lauren Goode

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Citia Lets You Skip the Boring Stuff in E-Books (And Get to the Important Parts)

Downloading e-books can be so easy that your digital pile of “things to read” can just as quickly become insurmountable.

A new tech start-up aims to help readers sift and skim through their nonfiction tomes — and get to the important parts.

Citia, a new software system from a New York-based company fittingly called Semi-Linear, demoed its product onstage today at the 10th annual D: All Things Digital conference.

Founder and CEO Linda Holliday showed off how Citia’s app, which is available for iPad only, helps users get the gist of books in just 30 minutes to 90 minutes.

“I have a massive backlog of books and I can’t seem to get through them,” Holliday said, adding that readers are more impatient, with “new media habits, but old media tastes.”

Holliday says the software deconstructs and reconstructs the book you’re reading. For example, a 400-page book will be broken down and assembled into seven different topics. Each of the sections will include a short description about itself, and together they offer a more comprehensive summary of what the book is about.

“So is this like CliffsNotes?” AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher asked, adding, “I never used them.”

“Kind of,” Holliday said. “It’s really a very long summary of this book.”

The summaries are displayed in “3-D” cards across the interface of the app; since it’s digital, videos and voiceovers are also included in some of the works.

And since most e-reading platforms and devices believe that readers will want to share tidbits of what they’re reading, there are plenty of easy-to-use social sharing options built into Citia, including email, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

The first app will be available in the iTunes App Store for $9.99 on June 1.

Right now, the only title available on the Citia platform is “What Technology Wants,” by Kevin Kelly, but the company is promising more book-based apps this summer, including Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class — Revisited,” Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together,” and “Where Good Ideas Come From,” by Steven Johnson. Citia creator Semi-Linear has partnered with Penguin Group (USA), Perseus Books Group and O’Reilly Media, to start.

Holliday first formed — and funded — Semi-Linear in March 2011.

At AllThingsD’s D:Dive Into Media conference earlier this year, another e-reading platform, called Coliloquy, demoed “active applications” for Amazon Kindle e-readers, in which readers can change character features and outcomes within an e-book (which is worth checking out, if only for my colleague Peter Kafka’s priceless expression when the e-reading topic turned … erotic).

Coliloquy is focused on works of fiction, rather than serious nonfiction books, but both app platforms are part of a growing trend of interactive reading, as publishers experiment with nonlinear reading formats to entice readers.

For an idea of how Citia works, check out the clip below:

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