I had occasion to visit web e-reader Ibis Reader last night for the first time in a while, and found a notice on their front page dated May 17th: “Ibis Reader will be shutting down soon and is no longer accepting new users. Existing users should download their books by selecting the ‘Download this book’ link on the left side of any reading page under the table of contents.”

There is no other information about the shutdown anywhere on the site. The “About” page still extolls the virtue of the reader, and the Threepress Consulting blog has not been updated since November, 2012. (It does feature a notice from January 2012, when Threepress was acquired by Safari Books Online, stating that “if [Ibis Reader and ThreePress’s other services] do transition, we’ll ensure that it’s smooth and non-disruptive.”) I didn’t see anything about it on Safari Books’s site, either. I emailed Threepress’s info address this morning asking for additional information, but didn’t receive a reply.

If I were to guess at the reason, I would imagine that Ibis costs money to run but doesn’t bring any revenue back in. I’ve never seen any advertising on the page, and there’s no way to pay money to subscribe or even a tip jar to defray expenses. And who knows how many people even use it? I imagine the amount of people who want to read from a computer’s web browser, or even an HTML5 tablet app, is small compared to the numbers who read from e-ink readers or more popular e-book stores’ tablet apps. As such, it’s not surprising it would have to go away sooner or later.

It’s a real shame, because for those who do want to be able to read e-books from their browser, I haven’t seen a better interface. The bare-bones black-on-white text of Ibis’s “no distractions” mode was one of the clearest, simplest computer-based ways to read e-books I ever found, akin to Readability reformatters for online articles. Its online nature made it completely platform-independent, as long as the platform had a web browser. And since it could download books from my Dropbox-hosted Calibre library, adding books to it was simpler than simple.

In a perfect world, Safari and Threepress would open the source code to Ibis the way Google did for EtherPad, so that people who wanted to could host their own Ibises, for themselves or others. I hardly imagine that’s likely to happen in this case, more is the pity. Does anyone know of any other online e-book readers with similar features?

So long, Ibis Reader. You will be missed.


  1. While the Ibis Reader source code isn’t available, it’s very closely related to Bookworm, which has been open source since it was released in 2008. People can and have set up their own Bookworm instances.

    However, I think a much better experience for web-based reading these days would be pairing a Dropbox (or similar cloud-based file share) with the Readium browser plugin. Readium is being actively maintained and has the latest EPUB 3 support.

  2. As a proof of concept, Ibis Reader was outstanding. Had it continued, it might have broken new ground both for web-based and app-based approaches to the display of unencumbered ePub documents. Alas, we will have to place a greater weight of expectation onto Readium and iBooks as the only places in town where ePub 3 is even attempted.

  3. I loved Ibis Reader, it was, the best by far. What i dont understand is. Why does a company like Safari Books aquire Ibis if they are going to shut it down ? What was the purpose of aquiring it in the first place if it wasn’t a revenue earner ?

  4. Colin: Quite often, companies (in any industry) aquire other companies specifically *for* the purpose of shutting them down, often if the company being acquired is considered a competitor, or possible future competition. And in many of those cases, the company being acquired may have other assets that are more valuable than the company itself: proprietary software, say, or extensive mailing lists, or something else along those lines.

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