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Harlequin offers free romance novels to iPhone users

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, romance series book publisher Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. has released 16 free romance novels for users of Lexcycle's Stanza electronic book reader application for Apple's iPhone and iPod touch.

Stanza for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch is available as a free download from the iTunes App Store and from More than 1 million users have downloaded Stanza since mid-July, when it debuted in the App Store.

"Quite simply, Harlequin has always been where women are -- we were the publisher to introduce books into supermarkets and we're global -- so putting our novels on the iPhone via Lexcycle Stanza to be in this fast-growing market is a natural fit," Malle Vallik, director of digital content and interactivity for Harlequin, Toronto.

"Romance readers are avid readers, but they are also very busy women juggling work and family, so being able to spend a few minutes reading on her iPhone while waiting to pick the kids up from soccer is a perfect match," he said. "We're giving away the novels for free as part of our 60th anniversary celebrations but also to let readers experience reading on a phone with no risk to them.

"As well, we expect some people who have never read a series romance to download and try the stories. From past experience we know we will gain a lot of new readers."

Harlequin's target demographic will not come as a shock.

"We have a wide range of editorial reflected in the 16 free books that appeals to a wide demographic range of women," Mr. Vallik said. "The novels range from romantic suspense to historical to paranormal to more.

"There is something for every woman and the 'free' will make her aware of the breadth of stories available from Harlequin and encourage her to try," he said. "What the iPhone has done so brilliantly is show Americans how much more they can do with their phone than place a phone call.

"Bringing the love of reading to the iPhone is a natural for us."

At the 2009 MacWorld Conference and Expo, Stanza was named the Best Free or Ad Supported App by the 2008 Best App Ever Awards.

Stanza provides consumers with the ability to customize the reading experience with 20-plus font types, nearly limitless font sizing and a choice of more than 125 background and text colors.

"Our partnership with Lexcycle Stanza brings us to the over 1 million people who have already downloaded their app and the free Harlequin novels are one of the featured offerings in their catalogue," Mr. Vallik said.

"As Harlequin celebrates its 60th anniversary throughout the year, the Stanza iPhone partnership will be highlighted," he said. "Moreover we have a powerful social media campaign through our own community and bloggers."

Loving list
Harlequin was the first major publishing house to make its entire front list available in ebook format simultaneously with print.

Harlequin also publishes several original digital-only programs, including Spice Briefs, Silhouette Nocturne Bites and Harlequin Historical Undone.

Harlequin is a leading-edge publisher in digital, with its novels regularly topping eBook bestseller lists.

"This means that women are buying and reading eBooks," Mr. Vallik said. "They do this not because they think technology is cool, but because there are benefits for them: convenience, portability and immediacy.

"We know the experience repeats itself with mobile -- many of the eBooks we sell are read on mobile phones," he said.

The list of free titles offered through the promotion includes one from every Harlequin series:
Harlequin American Romance, Once a Cowboy by Linda Warren
Harlequin Blaze, Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Historical, His Lady Mistress by Elizabeth Rolls
Harlequin Intrigue, Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch by B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Presents, Price of Passion by Susan Napier
Harlequin Romance, The Bride's Baby by Liz Fielding
Harlequin Superromance, Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson
Silhouette Desire, Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child
Silhouette Nocturne, Kiss Me Deadly by Michele Hauf
Silhouette Romantic Suspense, Stranded with a Spy by Merline Lovelace
Silhouette Special Edition, Dancing in the Moonlight by RaeAnne Thayne
Love Inspired, A Very Special Delivery by Linda Goodnight
Love Inspired Historical, Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
Love Inspired Suspense, Hide in Plain Sight by Marta Perry
Kimani Romance, Irresistible Forces by Brenda Jackson
NASCAR, Speed Dating by Nancy Warren

The total approximate retail value of the free books is $60.

Lexcycle is a private company with more than 1 million users in 50 countries.

Harlequin Enterprises is a series romance giant and a publisher of women's fiction, with titles issued worldwide in 29 languages and sold in 107 international markets.

The book publisher produces more than 120 titles monthly and publishes 1,200-plus authors from around the world.

Harlequin is a wholly owned subsidiary of media company Torstar Corp.

Harlequin launched a mobile application called Harlequin on the Go more than three years ago.

The app consisted of serialized stories, a celebrity kissing game called "Six Degrees of Kisses," a poll and book information.

"We eliminated the application as we heard from users it was too cumbersome to download and moved to a WAP-based program," Mr. Vallik said. "It has been successful and we've learned a lot about the challenges and opportunities within the mobile environment."

Many of the top-selling novels in Japan last year were written on the mobile phone for the mobile phone, according to Harlequin.

"Because we are a global company we are very aware of how the mobile device is a lifestyle necessity in Japan, offering entertainment, communication and shopping," Mr. Vallik said. "We've had tremendous success with distribution of our stories via mobile in Japan.

"For Harlequin, mobile is very much part of the future and we're ecstatic to be working with Lexcycle Stanza to make it happen," he said.