Starbucks adds e-books to the mix

Starbucks is partnering with Yahoo to provide customers with a new digital network offering free e-books, movies, and other goodies.

The new Starbucks network adds e-books, iTunes, and news to the menu.

Forget the coffee – or even the new offerings of beer and wine. Now there's a really good reason to go to Starbucks: e-books!

As part of a joint venture with Yahoo, Starbucks begins today providing customers with a new digital network that offers free e-books, movies, and other goodies designed to keep customers lingering over their lattes – and spending extra dollars – as long as possible.

Starbucks began offering free wireless Internet in its stores in July. As of today, when customers take advantage of Stabucks' Internet access, the first thing they see will be a welcome page inviting them to read books (or pieces thereof), watch movies, and enjoy access to some paid sites like The Wall Street Journal. Additional partners include The New York Times, USA Today, Apple's iTunes, local news provider Patch, and Zagat.

For the most part, the free content is available only while the customer is in Starbucks.

Those who want to purchase books, music, or newspaper subscriptions may do so – with a percentage of the profit going to Starbucks.

The e-books on the network are being offered through the Bookish Reading Club, a partnership with publishers, including HarperCollins, Hachette, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster.

Some books will be offered as excerpts only – but the customer will have the option of buying the whole book if interested. Some material will be made available on the network before its release date. One of the first such offerings is a preview of Anita Shreve's upcoming novel "Rescue."

Starbucks also plans to offer short e-books on business management, leadership, and travel.

The hope here seems to be that customers will only need to go home to sleep.

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor's book editor.

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