Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Schuster Team Up With AOL For Book Site: Bookish

Three major publishers are behind the latest effort to boost print and digital book reading. Bookish, backed by Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group (USA), and Simon & Schuster (NYSE: CBS), promises an editorially independent platform for discovery and sales. It has been in stealth mode for months as “Obikosh.” (Get it?) The site plans a summer launch with instant access — at least, in terms of marketing — to million of users through a deal with AOL (NYSE: AOL), whose Huffington Post Media Group will sell ads and “engage users” across its network.

If the name sounds familiar, like me, you may be a subscriber to a service called Bookish that already exists.

Turns out the Bookish Reading Group, which launched in October as part of the Starbucks Digital Network, was started by the founding publishers. A rep tells paidContent: “We entered into the relationship as a way of getting early engagement around the Bookish brand.”

Users can read selected books online (up to four at a time) at Starbucks (NSDQ: SBUX). They have two weeks to finish the book, usually a new title, with their places saved every time so they pick up from the last visit.

The publishers’ effort will get the usual “Hulu for whatever” comparison with competitors in the same industry banding together in a business venture to create a digital space that can make money. CEO Paulo Lemgruber has held digital exec positions at Conde Nast, Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) and RBI, where he was GM of Variety.com. Charlie Rogers, formerly of NBCU and Martha Stewart Living, is Editor-in-Chief.

It’s not clear how many other publishers will be willing to go along. Lemgruber says in the release that Bookish is working with book retailers.