A few days ago, I got a spam--er, a targeted media announcement from a company called BookRix. Founded in Germany and launched last week in the USA, BookRix joins a growing number of writing-related social media websites--EditRed, ABCTales, Booksie, GoodReads, and HarperCollins's slush pile experiment, Authonomy, to name just a few.
Using a proprietary platform called ViewRix, BookRix lets aspiring authors upload their stories or manuscripts, format them into "web books" (these look more or less like scans of printed books, and mimic the turning of pages), share them with the BookRix community, and get feedback from other members. Books can also be shared with friends and family, or embedded on blogs or other social networking websites. In addition to members' writing, BookRix's library includes public domain works (Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Louisa May Alcott), presumably in a bid to attract readers as well as authors. If you hover your cursor over a book, you can see how many times it has been "read" (i.e., how many times someone has clicked on the cover image).
BookRix claims that it's "the first book community where anyone can place their own books, short stories, poems etc. to be promoted on the web," which makes me wonder how much time its staff have spent on the Internet lately. It is also, either naively or deceptively, promoting itself as a way for aspiring writers to launch their careers in a viral manner, a la YouTube. According to its press release, "The traditional publishing world can be challenging to break into and BookRix.com offers aspiring authors a platform to promote themselves and help them begin a career in writing...BookRix.com gives writers the same possibilities that musicians found on MySpace photographers discovered on Flickr and online video creators found on YouTube."
Writers, do I need to elaborate--again--on why posting your writing online at a manuscript display or peer critique website is unlikely to help you build a platform? Sites like BookRix are very attractive to writers--but not so much to readers, who don't particularly want to wade through a mass of unvetted manuscripts in search of something good to read. The likelihood that you'll be "discovered" as a result of uploading your book to BookRix is miniscule. A few hundred clicks on your "web book" does not an audience make. Agents and editors will not be impressed.
BookRix's Terms and Conditions, which appear to have been poorly translated from the original German, are somewhat challenging to decipher. For instance, this--
"Contents which are uploaded, revised and/or published by Users on BookRix are not and do not become Contents of the Provider. Moreover, the Provider does not adopt Contents as its own which have been uploaded, revised and/or published by Users. The preceding sentences also apply in case Contents are formatted as an electronic book by means of the web-application which is available on BookRix. The preceding sentences also apply with respect to communication between Users and comments which Users make with respect to Contents."
--which I take to mean that BookRix does not claim users' copyrights, either for content uploaded to the site or for comments made on the site. Overall, though, the Terms and Conditions don't look too bad. Users do need to be aware of Clause 23, which obliges them to pay $500 (I'm assuming it's $500; the amount is given but the currency isn't defined) "for any conduct constituting a wilful or negligent breach of any of the prohibitions set out in section 22 of these GTC above" and of Clause 25, which entitles BookRix to place targeted ads based on users' personal data on their profile and book pages. But there don't seem to be any major "gotchas" lurking in the fine print.
BookRix is free. As with other writing-related social media sites, writers might enjoy the community and benefit from the comments they receive. But if you choose to use a site like this, do it for fun or for feedback. Don't do it in the expectation that it will give you a toehold on a writing career.