Never had time to read Moby Dick and want something weightier than spam to read on your Blackberry on the way to work?
A new website is offering to send classic books in bite-size installments to your handheld device or email every morning before you go to work, or whenever you want, for free.
The emails from www.dailylit.com are designed to be read in under five minutes. Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days comes in 82 parts while Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina could take nearly two years of working days to read at 430 parts.
"Our audience includes people like us, who spend hours each day on email but can't find the time to read a book," DailyLit co-founder Albert Wenger says.
The company was launched in May with a list of around 370 mostly classic titles, though the website has been operating on a trial basis for several months. Wenger told Reuters 50,000 people had signed up, registering for over 75,000 titles.
Since the books are out of copyright the company can offer them for free, but it plans to expand and start charging a fee for newer titles licensed by major publishers within four or five weeks. The emails are free of advertising and the revenue model will depend on fees, sharing revenues with publishers.
"We're looking to charge under $US5 ($NZ6.90) per title," Wenger's wife and co-founder Susan Danziger, who used to work for publisher Random House, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"Publishers like it because it's a new format they haven't yet exploited," she says, adding that she was in talks with publishers about releasing advance installments of new books before publication date that would help market the titles.
Language course specialist Berlitz is one of five companies that have already struck deals with DailyLit, which will soon be offering five-minute daily language lessons.
Jim Milliot, director of business and news at Publishers Weekly, says DailyLit is among a handful of companies experimenting with new ways to "slice the pie" of book publishing to make money out of new technologies.
"Quite frankly nobody quite knows how to monetize all this digital stuff yet," Milliot said.
A top 10 list of popular authors on DailyLit includes Austen, Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky and - appropriately for a service offering books in installments - Charles Dickens.
For impatient readers caught up in the plot of Sherlock Holmes DailyLit does allow more than five minutes reading a day. "If a reader is done with a particular installment, a reader can receive the next installment immediately," it says.