Dallas-based technology start-up company Rethink Books officially launched its new reading application that enables users to share notes with each other while reading digital books, showcasing the software at the annual Catalyst West conference in Irvine, Calif., this week.
The Christian Post met up with Rethink Books' founder and CEO Jason Illian at Catalyst West on Thursday, the second day of the three-day Christian leadership conference, to discuss the apps launching.
Leveraging the technology of Facebook, the app called "BookShout!" goes beyond the typical highlighting and note-taking tool found on reading applications, to "an affinity, community-driven function," say its developers.
Rethink Books says that through their Facebook connections, users can create "reading circles" of any size, which can be made public or private. It can be a virtual group or a group with a physical location. Each reader can see what others in their reading circle highlight as well as read their notes and comments with a unique multi-colored highlighting system. Other readers' notes can also be turned off without having to "un-friend" them.
Initially launching for the iPad, BookShout! will soon be available on iPhones, the web, and Android devices. Upon signing up, users are connected with friends via their social networks and provided suggested users to "follow."
"I actually look forward less to the technology aspects and really more to the connection aspects about people," Illian said. "If people are talking about a family issue or talking about a specific book that they are studying together, I look forward to [hearing about] what happens inside the small groups.
"Really what we are doing is taking what happens naturally in a small group and we are just taking it online and making it virtual," he said. "We are all part of the body of Christ, and we were designed to engage around the Bible and other meaningful books. We are simply using technology to enhance our interactions, both in person and virtually."
Altogether, approximately 10,000 books will be available for purchase through the BookShout! Online store.
The company states that the unique technology will allow authors to interact with their readers either individually or as a group, create a following around their books and communicate directly with followers. They can share personal notes from their writing of the book, as well as respond to readers' thoughts as they are posted. Authors and pastors can easily publish manuscripts or sermons directly to BookShout! for their followers to read and share notes.
"As both an author and a publisher, I can't tell you how excited we as an industry are about this new platform helping to create community around our books," said Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and now a Rethink Books board member. "What's most heartening is that it will help readers discover – through their own friends and circles – the books that will be most meaningful and enjoyable to them."
Illian told CP that through testing, his company found that small groups that meet physically together for a book study and use BookShout! as well, are finding their discussions even more enhanced.
"When people are in a small group they really only meet like once a week or once every couple weeks, but now they are able to talk on a daily basis if they want, which actually encourages and creates more conversation when you get together because they've connected longer," he explained.
"This application actually creates more conversation. It's been really encouraging to see the groups that are starting to use it and how they are starting to read together and really have more vibrant, more fulfilling conversations around whatever topic is important to them," he said.
Having book studies with people around the world who are unable to get together in person is another exciting aspect of the application, said Illian, 36, who was formerly the CEO of GodTube.com.
BookShout! was developed as the result of having "a passion for how technology and faith can merge and really doing it for the cause of Christ," he said.
On the Web, http://bookshout.com/.