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BitLit says snap a 'shelfie' to get free e-books

The BitLit app will give you free or cheap e-book editions of the print books you already own. Well, maybe some of them.

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BitLit

It's a modern conundrum: Someone gifted you a hard copy of a book, but you prefer to read on digital devices. Wouldn't it be great if you could get the e-book edition for free (or at least at a discount), seeing as you already own the print version?

That's the idea behind Kindle MatchBook, but that, of course, limits you to Amazon's ecosystem. BitLit works on the same principle, but delivers matched-up e-books to you in a format that's compatible with Kindle, Kobo and Nook -- regardless of where you purchased them.

It works like this: using your smartphone's camera, you snap a photo of a row of books on your bookshelf -- a "shelfie," in BitLit parlance. (Admit it: that's pretty good.)

The BitLit app, available for Android and iOS, uploads the photo and looks for matches between what's in your library and what's in BitLit's. When there's a match, you qualify for the e-book edition, either free or "at a huge discount."

Sounds pretty sweet, right? As you might expect from a startup in the e-book space, BitLit currently offers a very limited selection -- only about 75,000 books, so the likelihood of a match is pretty slim. Browsing the library, I recognized very few mainstream authors.

A bigger problem: The "shelfies" I snapped refused to upload, showing 0% progress long after I took them. So I wasn't really able to put the service to a proper test. BitLit says it's currently swamped with people trying the service.

The idea, though? Golden. It's crazy to me that in this day and age, print books don't come bundled with e-book editions. Here's hoping BitLit will work out its issues and catch the eyes of some bigger-name publishers.