* Can such a universal library ever be truly created?
Originally Posted by Bob Russell
What do you think about some of the obvious questions?
Maybe... Google sure seems to be trying! I think all the content is going to end up online. If publishers are smart, they'll figure out a way to get some revenue from this kind of system, because otherwise the content will get distributed anyway and they'll just lose out.
* Should government be involved? How or why not?
I don't think it's necessary, and I don't think it would help. Governments vary too much for this to be a global solution.
* Would you like to see such a subscription plan work?
* Will the general public ever be interested enough to subscribe?
No. Most people don't read enough books to be interested in something like this. That's also why I don't see government support being helpful. Certainly not in the US, though I know there's a tax for TV access in the UK-- but that's TV. I doubt a "book tax" would fly, even there.
Unless it includes textbooks -- you may get more luck in that case. But I'm still skeptical.
* How much would you pay annually for access to all books?
Let's see. I read about 3 books a week, but I re-read a lot and some of my books come from the library or friends, so let's make that 2 books per week, at an estimate of US$4 ea (Baen type pricing or a mix of new/used paperbacks, with the occasional new hardcover thrown in for favorite authors). If it's less than US$400 I'm still coming out ahead. But I'd be a bit nervous about not being able to guarantee ongoing access to the books-- let's cut that number in half.
I'd like to pay monthly, rather than annually. Make it $20/month and I'm in -- that way I can still afford to purchase copies of books I want to keep.
* Would you prefer a flat fee or a "per use" fee?
I favor a mixed model. Flat fee for access, but I still want to be able to buy ebooks that I don't have to keep paying for.
* Do you think the revenues can support such a system?
Actually, yes, I do. When looking at how much people spend on books now, you need to look at the median rather than the mean. There's a lot
of inefficiency in the current system, and a lot of the access that would be offered with a system like this is "long tail" content, much of which is out of print (even if still protected by copyright), so publishers (and authors) aren't making anything on this content now.
The people who could be most hurt by a system like this are probably used book sellers.
* Or is it more important to you to own and control the content you buy?
Only some of the content, maybe 1/4 of what I read, tops.