by Hadley Malcolm)
Target wants to help host your book club — online.
As the retailer works to build a more competitive e-commerce experience, it's partnering with a startup e-book subscription service called Librify to give customers an online platform for buying, sharing, and discussing their favorite books.
The official launch is still several months off, but the announcement comes ahead of BookExpo in New York City this week, the biggest event of the year for the publishing industry.
Librify, which started beta testing with select users in March, offers a social-subscription service for e-books. For $8.99 a month, you get access to a recommended book each month, and a 10%-20% discount on all other e-books. Librify has more than 500,000 titles available for purchase so far — that's about half of what Amazon offers through the Kindle.
But Librify also offers a social platform built around the idea of creating a virtual book club-type experience. Users can create bookshelves based on their favorite categories, such as beach reads or classics. Signing up for the service through Facebook alerts users to which of their friends are also on Librify; they can follow their friends' bookshelves or copy those bookshelves and build on them with their own picks. And you can still access these features if you don't opt for the subscription.
"Eventually the goal is to have as much interactivity as we can," says Joanna Stone Herman, CEO of Librify. She wants to marry a centuries-old tradition rooted in the physical world with the ease, convenience, and social reach of the Web.
"Since the beginning of people reading books people have said, let's get five friends together, read the same book and talk about it," she says. "But there's nothing that's been done to enhance that from a technology standpoint."
Partnering with Target gives both companies a chance to expand their reach. Librify gets access to Target's marketing power, brand recognition, and customer base. Target gets closer to offering customers a more compelling online experience.
The service will be targeted at women, especially young professionals and moms of the coveted Millennial generation. Target is vague on the details at this point, saying more will be revealed this summer. But Stone Herman says there will be promotions and discounts for Target shoppers who arrive at librify.com through Target's website, and in-store displays will promote the partnership.
"It is a great solution for bringing a digital book experience to the Target guests who have long enjoyed our "Club Picks" selections," Target spokeswoman Erica Julkowski says. "We are proud to partner with Librify to offer a differentiated experience, which focuses on social connectivity and book clubs."
Target employees choose a new "club pick" every month based on what they personally are reading. Stone Herman says Librify will be able to leverage this curation expertise and capitalize on Target's brand.
"We're taking advantage of all the breadth and reach that Target has," she says.