Dallas-based technology start-up Rethink Books announced at the annual Catalyst West conference the release of BookShout!, a revolutionary new reading platform which enables users to engage and interact with each other while reading digital books, allowing friends to read books together, whether nearby or far apart.

Developed during the past two years for the Christian market—where small groups are part of the DNA—BookShout! allows users not only to read a book, but to further experience, discuss and dialogue about it with others. Leveraging the technology of Facebook, this foundational software created by Rethink Books goes beyond a simple highlighting and note-taking tool to an affinity, community-driven function.

“This is why BookShout! is such a perfect fit for the Christian audience,” said Rethink Books Founder and CEO Jason Illian, former president of GodTube.com. “We are all part of the body of Christ, and we were designed to engage around the Bible and other meaningful books. We are simply using technology to enhance our interactions in person and virtually.

“The Web actually is being rewritten around people,” Illian continued. “We’re moving from being viewers of a concert to actual band members on the stage.”

Initially launching for the iPad, BookShout! will soon be available on iPhones, the Web and Android devices. Upon signing up, users are connected with friends via their social networks and provided suggested users to follow.

In addition, users are encouraged to buy books together and create reading circles, allowing them to read books with their small group, friends from school, people from church, as well as the author. They can share their thoughts and notes with fellow users and link to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. (See online video demonstration of the platform.)

Through their Facebook connections, users can create reading circles of any size, which can be made public or private. It can be a virtual group or a group with a physical location. Each reader can see what others in his or her reading circle highlight, as well as read their notes and comments with a unique multi-colored highlighting system. Other readers’ notes can be turned off without having to un-friend them.

Every major Christian publisher is participating in the BookShout! launch. Altogether, approximately 10,000 books will be available for purchase through the BookShout! store, from publishers such as Zondervan and Tyndale.

BookShout!’s unique technology will allow authors to interact with readers individually or as a group, create a following around their books and communicate directly with followers. They can share personal notes from their writing of the book, as well as respond to readers’ thoughts as they are posted. Authors and pastors easily can publish manuscripts or sermons directly to BookShout! for their followers to read and share notes.

“As an author and a publisher, I can’t tell you how excited we as an industry are about this new platform helping to create community around our books,” said Mike Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and now a Rethink Books board member. “What’s most heartening is that it will help readers discover—through their own friends and circles—the books that will be most meaningful and enjoyable to them.”

In addition to Hyatt, other well-known authors whose books will be available on the platform at launch include Rick Warren, Jennie Allen, Phil Cooke, Robin Jones Gunn, Tricia Goyer, Fred Sanders and Matthew Turner.

Rethink Books is a Dallas, Texas-based technology start-up focused on helping readers buy, interact and share more books, specifically within the Christian market.

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