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New App Could be the Game Changer E-Readers Are Waiting For

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As we all know, everything is online. And that means less is on paper. Just recently, Borders told a federal bankruptcy court that it will close its remaining 399 stores and liquidate its assets. “We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now," Mike Edwards, Borders Group President, told the press and investors. For years Amazon and Borders have butted heads. When the Kindle emerged, the tug of war rope snapped.

Now comes a new initiative from Scribd, the social publishing and document sharing website, and it won't help America's remaining bookstores or print media, either. This week Scribd launched Float, an app that gives users access to a vast library of books, magazines, newspapers and blogs on a single application. It features " 'floating text,' which automatically flows to fill the screen at a reader’s preferred font size,” says the New York Times. Float "organizes the text from all these disparate sources into one coherent format on which users can zoom in or out, or overlay settings to adjust for direct sunlight or eye strain," according to a review in GigaOm.

Scribd CEO Trip Adler says this new general-purpose reading is “a different story.” A different business story, that is. Float “follows the debut of other reading apps like Flipboard and Pulse...but has one important differentiator at launch: Agreements with 150 publishers to reformat their full content,” according to All Things

Float “lured publishers with the 75 million existing monthly visitors to its document site, and a promise to share advertising and a subscription revenue for them.” Using that kind of leverage, the company was able to form partnerships with the Associated Press, the Huffington Post and Time, among other major players.

With a publisher index, a feed of recommendations, a tool to save articles for offline reading, featured curators, and a personal reading library, this app might just pull us all on board, and put an end to printed news. However, many kinks regarding publisher cuts and subscription fees still need to be worked out before users will gain access to certain premium articles. And for now the app is only available on the iPhone and Web. But the goal "is to have every blog and every news service included in Float,” Scribd CTO Jared Freidman told GigaOm.

Let’s see what happens when the subscription plan emerges in the fall. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be floating.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.