Booksellers Stock Digital

Austrian company HixBooks helps independent bookstores thrive in the virtual age

Daniel Schreiner

Daniel Schreiner, owner of HixBooks, with the Bookeen reader | Photo: Philipp Conrad

Half as light as your average book, a new gadget has recently appeared at the first district’s Shakespeare & Company Booksellers.

“In the summer of 2007, a good friend came to me after seeing an e-book reader at a trade-show and said, ‘we’ve got to do something with this,’” said Daniel Schreiner, a 27-year-old with a refreshingly bright idea: an electronic bookshop within your bookshop. “I still go to the bookshop around the corner.  They recommend great books. So I wanted to buy my e-books for them.  To make this possible, I created HixBooks.”

His company, based in Vienna, aims to help local bookstores get into the e-book business. Hixbooks is an online bookstore that offers e-books compatible with a number of electronic ‘readers.’

Tucked between stacks of books, HixBook’s Bookeen – one of the electronic text readers it offers – stood on display near the cash register.  “E-books have been popping up on the market for some time, yet we booksellers have been left out.” explains Shakespeare & Company’s Sheila Perlaki.

Roughly the height and width of your average paperback, the reader instantly displays the content of books at any desirable text-size after downloading an e-book onto the device.  Its E-Ink LCD display is non-reflective and shows sharp and crisp letters from any angle.  It feels the same as reading an actual book, since the display itself emits zero light.

“When we go on vacation, my wife typically takes 3 or 4 books along, I’d take 6, and I’d probably buy 5 to 10 while visiting local bookstores,” explains Jack Mayfield, an American tourist visiting Shakespeare & Co. “Now that we’ve got the new Kindle, we’ve been able to significantly lighten our load.”

While Amazon’s Kindle reader lets U.S. readers download books from Amazon via its wireless Internet access, the licensing agreement is quite different from the HixBooks model. When you read a book on a Kindle, it automatically checks to make sure you are reading the most recent edition, forcing you to update your copy.

With HixBooks, you buy the reader and e-books from the bookstore of your choice, and the content is yours to keep and make as many backups of as you like. A wireless connection is no longer necessary. Most importantly, independent bookshops continue to profit through e-book sales.

For those who already have e-book readers, such as the iPhone or other Mobipocket-compatible devices, there’s also good news: You can buy e-books at Shakespeare & Co., and you can even login to their e-bookshop from your home computer.

“I like to think that if I’m buying books online, my favorite bookstore doesn’t lose out.” Schreiner points out that e-books generally cost less than their paper relatives, though new releases cost roughly the same and academic texts are often more expensive.

While easy to use, the device obviously takes some getting used to. Its large text, however, is a selling point for older customers because the text in many paperbacks is often hard to read.

Currently, HixBooks catalogs over 50,000 books and the list is growing by the minute. They plan to produce e-books compatible with Sony devices in the coming year.


Two Hixbooks products are available for purchase at Shakespeare & Co. Booksellers:


HixReader – Ultra by Bookeen: €279

HixReader – Touch’n Read by iRex

Technologies:  €599


1., Sterngasse 2

(01) 535 5053

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