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Old 05-15-2011, 01:31 PM   #1
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The subscription model for ebooks hasn’t emerged yet, but it will

Mike Shatzkin speculates on possibility of a future subscription model for ebooks

ARTICLE

I tried to discuss a possible subscription model on an earlier thread but that thread was sidetracked into a discussion of the Topic that Cannot be Rationally Discussed, and ended up closed. I hope to discuss subscription this time with no mention of the TTCBRD.
Subscription has for decades been part of the publishing industry (think of the venerable Book-of-the Month Club).

In the article and the comments, they discuss a number of models:

*A hypothetical $100 a month for any ebook you wanted
* A hypothetical $50 a month for access to a delimited pool , from which you could buy and download
*The actual Audible.Com model-a tiered model in which at the Platinum level you pay $229 per year for 24 books
* The Netflix model, in which you pay to rent or stream movies. People were excited about the price, until reminded that buying books isn't the same as streaming movies. (The technology for streaming books isn't quite here yet, but will be soon, as I pointed out in Other Subscription Thread).

It was pointed out that the key issue is not what the model is in other industries, but how much you would be willing to spend per month on books.
Another real world example not mentioned in the article- subscription to SF magazines . (I subscribe to Isaac Asimov's Science fiction Magazine for $3 per month)

So what do you all think the best subscription model will be?
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Old 05-15-2011, 01:43 PM   #2
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I don't personally think that suscriptions will happen. At least not until we have a bullet-proof DRM system available. Without that, people will simply keep the books they "borrow".
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Old 05-15-2011, 01:58 PM   #3
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I hope we get to the subscription model. It always benefits the heavy user.

The issue is price. Netflix has a $9 monthly all-you-stream price. Unless their catalog is not to your taste or you're happy with network TV or don't watch much video to start with, or have a lame internet connection (or none) then you'd be a dope not to sign up. Their biggest competition, to me, is Redbox at $1 plus tax (plus transit cost, which is zip if you're out shopping anyway) per DVD for a day.

So books. I try to purchase discounted where I can so I average less than $10 a book (both e- and paper). If you'd present an e-book subscription, reading say one book at a time, it would have to cost me less than $20 a month to be attractive, probably $15. And it would have to have a selection almost as deep as Amazon's e-book catalog. I'm not saying $30 (or even $40) a month would not save me money but I'd only lock into a subscription if it is a no-brainer to me.

The general public should be more intrigued by such a subscription that also provided the hardware for free. As done elsewhere, give away the razor or printer and make your money on the blades or ink.
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:04 PM   #4
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$100 a month to subscribe? I'll bet that there will be dozens of people willing to pay that rate!
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:07 PM   #5
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I don't personally think that suscriptions will happen. At least not until we have a bullet-proof DRM system available. Without that, people will simply keep the books they "borrow".
Well people borrow library ebooks. It kind of depends on whether your subscription model is a "buy" model (you keep the book ala Book of the Month Club ) or a rent model ( a la Netflix). Price would be different too.

You should probably not explicitly mention the TTCBRD, unless you want more hysterical rants and another closed thread.
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:15 PM   #6
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To use the Netflix model, a large part of the value in a subscription system might be the if-you-liked-this-you'll-also-like-that feature. Some meaningful system of recommendations would really add value to a subscription service. Right now the profusion of eBooks, and the difficulty of distinguishing among them, seems like a big problem.
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:17 PM   #7
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$100 a month to subscribe? I'll bet that there will be dozens of people willing to pay that rate!
Well, those are hypothetical. OTOH, the Audible.com model, which actually exists, and which works out to just under $10 per book, has been shown to work.
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:20 PM   #8
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To use the Netflix model, a large part of the value in a subscription system might be the if-you-liked-this-you'll-also-like-that feature. Some meaningful system of recommendations would really add value to a subscription service. Right now the profusion of eBooks, and the difficulty of distinguishing among them, seems like a big problem.
The curation problem is a gigantic problem for books in general, and ebooks in particular.
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Old 05-15-2011, 02:32 PM   #9
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Shatzkin suggests this as a tiered plan:

Quote:
Another way to do it would be "tiered." For $10 a month, you can touch two
books a week. For $20 a month, you can touch five books a week. And for $30
a month, you can touch all you want.
Its unclear whether he is talking renting or buying books-think that he has renting in mind.
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Old 05-15-2011, 03:31 PM   #10
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I haven't used emusic.com in a while, but they have a great music discovery model without necessarily having the most comprehensive library, built on the idea that they're a 'music magazine.' For numerous genres and subgenres and certain key bands/artists they would have an in-depth editorial attached to a dozen or so editors' picks (for an individual band it might be their influences and who they've influenced, other bands out of their scene, etc), and then other users' playlists, reviews, and people-who-liked-so-and-so-liked-such-and-such layered on top of it all.

I could see a similar 'magazine' model working for e-books, certainly for genre e-books, and it would put English majors to work You get the run of the site and great reviews/criticism, plus 1-5 e-book downloads per month, based on subscription level.
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:10 PM   #11
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I think the question you have to ask with a subscription service is why the publishers/authors would offer it. For it to work, there has to be some value added for the publisher/author above what they get under the existing system.

The most plausible service would be something like the book of the month club, where you get books at a discount, but are obligated to buy a certain number of books (maybe you subscribe for a year and get a 20% discount). One problem with this system is that the universe of books you can choose is somewhat limited, though.

And maybe you could have a system with deeper discounts for older books that aren't selling as well.

I really can't see a Netflix-type system, though. Unlike movies, there has never really been a successful rental model for books, and I don't see that changing.

Similarly, I don't see a rhapsody or e-music type subscription model working because I don't see how the authors/publishers can make any money from it - it would basically just cannibalize sales.
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:42 PM   #12
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I really can't see a Netflix-type system, though. Unlike movies, there has never really been a successful rental model for books, and I don't see that changing.

Similarly, I don't see a rhapsody or e-music type subscription model working because I don't see how the authors/publishers can make any money from it - it would basically just cannibalize sales.
Of course , before a successful movie rental model was established, there wasn't a movie rental business. We just don't have the right model right. We know people are willing to borrow books for a while: there's no reason in principle why they wouldn't borrow books for a fee if they could borrow any book they liked, anytime they liked, rather than just the collection available at their local library
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:52 PM   #13
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So what do you all think the best subscription model will be?
I don't see a subscription service for fiction (even genre fiction) working. Bundles and other discount schemes for guaranteed volume of sales, but not a subscription.

O'Reilly's Safari books does seem to be working. I suspect that is because of the technical content. But perhaps I'm wrong. People will certainly try to do subscription services for fiction, so we'll see.

But the music industry experience seems to be that subscription services don't work.
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Old 05-15-2011, 05:53 PM   #14
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I thought Harlequin already had a subscription model also for ebook. Is that not true?

Last edited by tompe; 05-15-2011 at 06:59 PM.
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:01 PM   #15
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I thought Harlequin already had a subscription model also for ebook. Ist hat not true?
It seems you're right. They have subscription schemes for some of their ranges of romance ebooks.

http://ebooks.eharlequin.com/D39F068...iptionInfo.htm

4 books a month for $16.83
6 books a month for $22.28

But this seems more like a book club kind of thing than a subscription model like Netflix.

I must admit, I'm rather surprised that wescription.net haven't done something like this. I'd sign up for automatic payment of monthly webscriptions for a slight discount on the (now) $18/month.
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