Shantanu Bala figures he was probably around 10 or 11 years old when he first began picking up the basics of computer programming. “I was just really interested in technology and video games when I was young,” he says. Along with a few friends, he started toying around with those video games—learning how they worked, and attempting to modify them—”and eventually,” he says, “that led to having to learn more complicated things.”
Today, Bala is an 18-year-old Arizona State University student, although he’s currently spending a semester abroad in Copenhagen. (That’s him in the photo on the right.) He’s also the founder of Ebook Glue, a less-than-two-week-old online service that allows anyone to turn a blog into an e-book.
And the Ebook Glue service, by the way, couldn’t possibly be simpler: Just type in your blog’s URL (or the URL of its RSS feed), click a button, and voilà! Two links will appear—one link downloads your blog as an EPUB file, while the other downloads it as a MOBI file. You’ll also be given a unique URL that’s meant to be shared; anyone with access to that URL will also be able to download your blog-as-an-ebook.
Speaking over a Google Voice line from his temporarily-adopted home in Denmark, Bala says the idea for Ebook Glue came to him after he purchased an Amazon Kindle a couple years back, and soon realized he was reading more than he ever had before. But as Bala’s reading habit matured, he found that books alone weren’t necessarily quenching his thirst. “I really like reading content from the Web as well,” he says. “And for some reason, about six months ago, I was thinking, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if there was some way for bloggers to control how they present their content to their readers?’ I started working on [that idea] in my free time, and eventually, it turned into something that was actually kind of useful.”
Regardless of Ebook Glue’s usefulness, though, Bala still isn’t entirely sure how the project might evolve in the coming months. Lately, he’s been mulling over potential business plans. “My goal isn’t necessarily to look at it as the next Facebook, or anything like that,” he says with a laugh. “I’m just looking for ways to make it sustainable, mainly so it can continue to spread.”
One potential idea he’s considering is a simple fee-for-use structure: “If I make it easy for people to sell their e-books,” he says, “I could maybe take a commission, or something like that.” (For the time being, the site is entirely free to use.)
Of course, considering that the site has only been online for two weeks now, it stands to reason that Ebook Glue is still far from perfect. You may be disappointed to learn, for instance, that only the content that appears on a blog’s first page appears in the “glued” e-book. But along with other fixes, that’s an improvement Bala is currently in the process of tweaking.
Even more exciting is the news that Bala wants Ebook Glue to eventually work on all websites, as opposed to working exclusively with blogs. He’s even teamed up with Readability, which has been kind enough to allow him access to some of their tools. Of course, it’s still a bit too early in the game to know exactly how Ebook Glue’s Web content experience might differ from, say, the Send to Kindle experience, or the Instapaper Kindle app experience. But I, for one, am willing to wait to find out.