The social reading service can be used with apps such as Librarus, Marvin and Bookinist, allowing books to be read on multiple devices and accounts
The great hope for electronic literature has always been that it will allow us to read anything, anywhere, at any time. This is the dream of the internet, too, but books remain different in important ways: their length, the time we spend with them, the desire – we hope – to remunerate the authors who have worked so hard on them; these things build a sense of identity, community and ownership. Our books are ours, they belong to us and are part of us.
Now books are facing the same squeeze as much of the rest of our online experiences, as we're forced to choose between an ever-narrowing range of services, hungry for our data. Whether it's email, social networks, photo-sharing, e-reading or any other number of online activities, more and more are being diverted through, and retained by, a small number of "stacks": Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon. And the repercussions are bad: lose access to your account, move to another service, or just fall foul of the T&Cs, and you might lose your books.
Previously in this column I've covered software solutions such as Calibre – a "home library" for your books – which are good, but hard work for non-techies. And the thing is, the stacks aren't the way the internet was designed either. The idea was always that services would be well distributed – and this is the approach being championed by Readmill, a social reading service I've also mentioned before. In December, Readmill announced that you could now access your books, stored on its servers, from many other places – its own iOS and Android apps, but also other desktop and mobile apps such as Librarus, Marvin and Bookinist.
Each of these apps offers something different, depending on how and where you like to read, but they all have one thing in common: they're dedicated to openness. This means the ability to share your books across multiple devices and accounts, and not just to read them, but to own them. After all, they are your books.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Abhi Sharma