All aboard for ebooks: Publisher brings free titles to trains

In-flight entertainment terminals are common on airplanes nowadays, but Italian publisher RCS Libri is trying something new: Ebooks on high-speed trains. RCS, the second-largest book publisher in Italy, has partnered with Italian train company NTV to make ebooks available for free to passengers. The program is designed to help RCS learn about consumers’ reading habits.

eBook-on-board deviceThe ebooks are available on the Italo high-speed train line. Passengers can read them through on-board devices or stream them from a website on their own tablets, laptops or smartphones. The program, in a beta test now, will expand in 2013.

The program includes books by Italian authors Silvia Avallone, Gianrico Carofiglio, Roberto Costantini, Franco Di Mare, Dacia Maraini and Beppe Severgnini. Foreign authors include John Gray, Camilla Läckberg, Robert Ludlum, Petros Markaris and Kathy Reichs. There are also books by Italian prime minister Mario Monti and Pope Benedict XVI. RCS Libri declined to discuss how the authors are being paid.

Ebooks are not a regular component of other in-transit entertainment offerings. While Virgin America has had a “read” option on its seatback entertainment terminals since 2007, a company spokeswoman told me,”We are actually removing it and planning to re-name and redesign the channel as part of a new information section in February of next year.  It will not offer ebooks.”

Charlie Redmayne, the CEO of J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore, mentioned “in-flight entertainment” as a possible outlet for the Harry Potter ebooks, but told me the company had nothing new to announce.