Spotify is a great tool for listening to music, but it is an even better tool for finding music. You can listen to your friends playlists, see what they are listening to and basically figure out what is popular right now using the social aspects of Spotify. Unfortunately, when it comes to books, it is not quite the same. There are plenty of book stores & book apps and even though more and more of them are starting to use the social aspect to attract and share books – it is not quite the same. Dimcos, Oyster and Scribd are looking in that direction but are not quite there yet.
This is where Fastr, from Latvia comes in. Fastr is a company that got it’s start at the Garage48 hackathon, aiming to create a speed reading app. They did just that and started gaining popularity very quickly. The app was downloaded over 220 000 times and Fastr estimates that there are about 500 000 – 1 000 000 books being read using it.
With the early success, they decided that they wanted to take the whole reading world a little more serious and reach a sustainable business model in the process. To do so, they went after creating a social reading and social selling book app – Fastr Books, that is set to launch today on the app store. Eldars Loginovs, founder and CEO of Fastr, commented “we decided that we can save time for our customers without the speed reading concept, but with more advanced features, that will improve discoverability of the books and ensure the quality and relevance of the content we provide. We realized that we should focus on the social aspects, such as discovery, reading lists, following.”
Unlike the popular Oyster Books and Scribd, Fastr Books is not going for a complete Spotify model of having a monthly fee, instead they want to focus on premium and freshly published content, specialized non-fiction books and the additional context to any material being read. All of that while saving time. Which is spot on, I think. After all, nobody can read 100,000 titles that are on Oyster and when you have such a huge library, you are bound to spot some random titles such as: “School Decentralization in the Context of Globalizing Governance: International Comparison of Grassroots Responses”.
It has been said that when it comes to English language books, we crossed the point when you can read all of the printed books in your lifetime sometime in the 1500’s and Loginovs pointed out that today, “if you read slowly, you need four thousand years to read all the books in the world. If you read fast, you can do it in one thousand years – which is impossible anyway. So we want to save the time and increase the efficiency of purpose-oriented reading.”
To buy books on Fastr, you purchase points that you can then spend on books. So in theory, you can have a monthly fee with points too, giving you a large discount on the actual purchase price i.e. more points for your buck if you buy monthly.
The reason for points, Loginovs tells us, is because the fixed 30% cut from Apple was not made with publishing and other industries in mind. According to Loginovs, the standard fee in Russia for a re-sale of a book is 50% and in the rest of Europe, more like 30%. Making the Apple cut a destroyer of any possible profits. Bad, bad Apple.
Still, at the moment you can buy points from inside the app too, it is just that their website would give you a better exchange rate on it.
Up to this moment, Fastr was running a small beta test, and according to Loginovs, their assumptions on social selling were initially confirmed and people were purchasing books based on the social feed.
So if you want to give it a try, there are over one thousand books on the platform in both English and Russian ranging from classics to popular non-fiction books. It is not a huge amount, but Loginovs assures us that it is pure quality and if so, I will take that over 100,000 books any day. Our readers can even get a special invite code: “BMCYE-89436” which gives you a 200 points bonus, when registering.