Finding time to sit down with a good book is challenging when you’re constantly faced with work deadlines, taking care of your kids or just dealing with life in general. But a new service called Rooster is looking to fix that by delivering novels in short installments that can easily be read during your commute, a coffee break or whenever you have a free moment in your schedule.
Launching today on iOS for $4.99 per month, Rooster sends subscribers two books every month — one contemporary novel and one classic — split into sections that can be read in as little as 15 minutes. Users set their own schedule for when the next installment arrives on their iPhone or iPad (for example, every morning before your commute to work). But you’re also free to continue reading the next section if you have extra time. It’s a modern take on the serialized fiction format that was made famous by the likes of Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas.
“We really wanted to re-imagine what a great reading experience would be like in the age of always-connected smartphones,” said Rooster co-founder, publisher and former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee. “That medium actually gives you a lot more flexibility.”
While readers do not own the books outright, they can access them from their library for as long as they are a member of the service. Each month’s picks are chosen by Rooster’s editorial team, and the contemporary and classic selections are meant to complement each other — sort of like pairing a fine wine with a great cheese, explained Yael Goldstein Love, co-founder and editorial director at Rooster.
For launch, the team chose “I Was Here” by Rachel Kadish and “Billy Budd” by Herman Melville. Other writers in the Rooster library include Julia Glass, Adam Haslett, Alan Lightman and Chang Rae-Lee.
For now, Rooster is only offering works of fiction, but Goldstein Love said they are looking to expand into other genres, such as science fiction, mystery and romance. Lee said they are in active discussions with both independent and Big Five publishing houses, but also working with authors to create original pieces for the platform.
Whether people take to this format remains to be seen, but Rooster believes that breaking up books into segments will make it less daunting for people to tackle a 500-page novel than it would be using one of the current reading apps or devices, and that will get more people reading.
“We think we can create a population of casual readers in the same way that mobile games created a population of casual gamers,” said Goldstein Love.
Rooster is the flagship product for the San Francisco-based media technology startup Plympton, and has raised less than $1 million in angel funding. Investors include Albert Wenger (partner at Union Square Ventures) and his wife, Susan Danzinger; Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit; Garry Tan, co-founder of Posterous and parter at Y Combinator; and others.