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Old 05-16-2011, 12:25 PM   #31
taosaur
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I don't see the Netflix style unlimited service or any kind of rental working out. The emusic.com model makes a lot more sense for the medium: a heavily curated, extensive but not universal catalog, where the on-site content and the discovery service are part of the appeal, and tiered monthly fees allow you to download anywhere from 1 to 5 books per month. It may not be your sole source of e-books, but the psychology of knowing you could be paying less per-item if you just get x number of items per month, together with knowing you'll find books you wouldn't even have known about otherwise, will get a lot of people past the absence of NYTimes bestsellers.

Build up the userbase with your "indie" catalog (drawing on many small publishers in many genres), and eventually you'll get some bigger fish and find publishers and authors coming to you.
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Old 05-16-2011, 01:49 PM   #32
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I also like the webscription model, except that I am not thrilled about the serialization format. Just let me have 6 ebooks for $18 a month and I'll be completely happy.
That's easy! Just wait until all the books have been published, and buy the webscription then. All the books are immediately available for download.

The half/three-quarters available only applies to books that haven't yet been published and aren't available in any other form. In other words, early access!
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Old 05-16-2011, 04:14 PM   #33
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For those objecting to the "Netflix" model , you should understand that the Netflix model is more than the "streaming only, " ostensibly all you can eat model.
The original Netflix model was a tiered DVD rental plan. It was $8.99 per month to rent one DVD at a time, $13.99 for two DVDs at the time, and $16.99 for three or more DVDs at a time. Later on, Netflix offered streaming from a portion of its catalogue as a feature. That feature became so popular that last year, Netflix offered streaming only as a fourth tier.
If we consider the Netflix plan as a subscription plan tiered to usage, then the model can be viable, I think. You have one tier for the casual user, a higher tier for the moderate user and the highest tier for the heavy user.
We also have to consider not only usage, but also what pool the subscriber has access to . Consider Netflix again. The "streaming only" option subscriber only gets access to titles more than 1 year old . If you want to have access to more recent titles, you must subscribe to a higher priced tier.
In the same way you can tie the ebook subscription rates to the titles included in the pool. If you want all titles, including the NYT hardcover bestseller list included in the pool, you pay at the platinum level; if you want the NYT paperback bestseller list ( books that came out last year) you pay at the gold level; if you want the mid-list books you pay at the silver level; and so on all the way down to the lead level (Project Gutenberg only) . OK, that last was a joke .
Subscription as to pool could also apply to categories: you could subscribe to the SF/Fantasy pool, or to the mystery/thriller pool, or the history book pool. ( In that way it would be similar to the old line book clubs). You could subscribe to more than one pool as well.
As you can see, its complicated, so price would be tricky. However, I can see the following scenario: Amazon sets up a SF Book Club, in which for $20 per month, you get to pick 4 books each month from a pool that includes their mid-list SF catalogue. You don't get the latest and the greatest, but you get the stuff from a few years ago. If you prepay the $240, you get to pick 5 books per month and you get credits and freebies the longer you are a member. There is a newsletter and a discussion forum. The authors , who don't make much money off their older books, would be on board, along with their publishers.
Would this work for everyone? Nope- but the beauty of online is that you can have a subscription plan tailored to every taste.
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Old 05-16-2011, 04:39 PM   #34
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I just buy individual books from Baen, because the webscriptions almost never have more than one book that I'm interested in. Occasionally, there's a set with 2 books I'd read, but it's still cheaper to buy 2 6-dollar books, than a set of 5 or 6 books at $18 that I'd only read one or two of.

Also, I'd have to wait until the webscription finished, because I don't want to read part of a book.
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Old 05-16-2011, 04:55 PM   #35
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Originally Posted by stonetools View Post
I can see the following scenario: Amazon sets up a SF Book Club, in which for $20 per month, you get to pick 4 books each month from a pool that includes their mid-list SF catalogue. You don't get the latest and the greatest, but you get the stuff from a few years ago. If you prepay the $240, you get to pick 5 books per month and you get credits and freebies the longer you are a member. There is a newsletter and a discussion forum. The authors , who don't make much money off their older books, would be on board, along with their publishers.
That'd work wonderfully.

Do you really think a bookstore could get the Agency 6 to go along with charging only $5 for backlist ebooks, even in a subscription format? They freaked out over $10 ebooks. Their current idea of backlist midlist prices is $10 for the first of a series first published in 1986, where most of the series isn't (legitimately) available digitally at all. $8 for one outside of a series, originally from '92.

As far as I know, the only big publishers willing to sell most of their ebooks at $5 or less are romance publishers.

$20/month for 4-5 books from a reasonably genre-focused pool of books would be great; ebook readers would jump on it. But the publishers show no signs of being willing to accept less than full mm paperback face price for ebooks.
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:04 PM   #36
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I like Shatzkin's article, but I think he's got the pricing wrong; I think more than $20/month is a recipe for failure. Or maybe success for a tiny book club, but it won't sweep the internet as the new economic model.

If we can pay less $10/month for all the movies we can watch, why would we pay five times that much for a much more limited range of content? And badly-formatted content as well?
To repeat, the success of any subscription plan would be tied not what's happening in any other industry, but to how much per month we spend on books.
from your remarks, Elfmark, I believe that you are the kind of reader who is satisfied with fan fic, Smashwords, Baen, and the stuff you can get in the "bargain bin" at Amazon and B&N (not that there's anything wrong with that). .For you , $10 per month is the max you would spend on books.
Shatzkin, OTOH. strikes me as a guy who buys 2-3 books per month from the NYT bestseller list, in addition to buying other books. I would guess his tastes run to high fiction and non-fiction (He confessed he doesn't read SF). For him, $50 per month seems fine, because this is what he normally spends on books).
I think you two are outliers and the average "moderate to heavy" reader falls in between these extremes. From the numerous threads excoriating publishers for "unconscionably high" ebook prices, I suspect that you have a lot more company in this forum than Mr. Shatzkin in terms of buying habits. However, you probably should not take your habits as the norm. After all, a helluva lot of folks bought and are buying Ms. Hillenbrands "Unbroken" ebook at $12.99 and above. Judging from the five star ratings and the unanimous rave reviews, those buyers think its worth every penny.
I think there are a lot of folks out there who would be willing to do $15-30 per month for subscriptions. I expect we'll find out soon.

Last edited by stonetools; 05-16-2011 at 05:07 PM.
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:20 PM   #37
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That'd work wonderfully.

Do you really think a bookstore could get the Agency 6 to go along with charging only $5 for backlist ebooks, even in a subscription format? They freaked out over $10 ebooks. Their current idea of backlist midlist prices is $10 for the first of a series first published in 1986, where most of the series isn't (legitimately) available digitally at all. $8 for one outside of a series, originally from '92.

As far as I know, the only big publishers willing to sell most of their ebooks at $5 or less are romance publishers.

$20/month for 4-5 books from a reasonably genre-focused pool of books would be great; ebook readers would jump on it. But the publishers show no signs of being willing to accept less than full mm paperback face price for ebooks.

Shatzkin did say agency pricing would be a problem . Ah well, I think the publishers could be persuaded to go along if it was shown that there was a demand out there for this kind of model . I hope to see some kind of experiment along this line soon.
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Old 05-16-2011, 05:39 PM   #38
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from your remarks, Elfmark, I believe that you are the kind of reader who is satisfied with fan fic, Smashwords, Baen, and the stuff you can get in the "bargain bin" at Amazon and B&N (not that there's anything wrong with that). .For you , $10 per month is the max you would spend on books.
Not quite. I'm not "satisfied" with fanfic; I look for books to buy when I run out of fanfic novels by my favorite authors.

My ebook budget is shifting to about $20-50/month. But I want enough reading material to read constantly (3-5 novels/week), so price matters; the better bargain I get for my paid books by names I know, the less time I have to spend poking through the slushpile trying to figure out what's free that I'd enjoy. I read cheap books because I read constantly. (When they invent the cyber-implants that scroll text on the inside of one's eyelids, I'm so there.)

DRM matters rather more, and since Shatzkin's hypothetical subscription probably involves DRM, the pricing is all abstract to me.

Quote:
For him, $50 per month seems fine, because this is what he normally spends on books).
Many people (who make more than $50k/year) would probably be happy to pay $50/month for a book subscription--but with a new delivery method, the price needs to be low enough to entice people who aren't sure they'd like it. $50/month is for people who *know* they'll enjoy it; $20/month will convince people to try it for a month or two. If they want to convince college students to try it, the rate will have to be low.

Quote:
I think you two are outliers and the average "moderate to heavy" reader falls in between these extremes. From the numerous threads excoriating publishers for "unconscionably high" ebook prices, I suspect that you have a lot more company in this forum than Mr. Shatzkin in terms of buying habits.
I know what it takes to convert a pbook to an ebook. The *only* reason for prices equal to paperback, much less comparable to hardcover, is to attempt to push people into buying paper instead of digital copies.

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However, you probably should not take your habits as the norm. After all, a helluva lot of folks bought and are buying Ms. Hillenbrands "Unbroken" ebook at $12.99 and above.
Then they don't need to offer a subscription package to those people; they're happy with current prices. I'm the customer they haven't figured out how to catch.

Currently, the Agency 6 are getting $0/month from me--someone who spends almost all her leisure time reading, likes multiple genres, enjoys short stories and mega-novels, and will read a 15-book series (if they're well-written, otherwise, probably not more than 2 or 3) in order to get context for the fanfic and filk.

Growing up, new books were mostly out of my budget; now, pbooks are out of my interest range. But I haven't slowed down my reading at all, and I throw substantial money at niche publishers who've made it easy and fun for me to buy ebooks from them. The Agency 6, who published a lot of the books I loved growing up, get no money from me. I no longer read their books, because they don't publish in a form accessible to me. (Saying, "you could read DRM books" is much like saying "you could read hardcovers." I could; it's too much hassle.)

Quote:
I think there are a lot of folks out there who would be willing to do $15-30 per month for subscriptions. I expect we'll find out soon.
$15-30, sure. Depending on how many books & which books are available.

How do you propose to get publishers to go along with this--or will it be an indie/self-pub subscription arrangement?
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:31 PM   #39
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Bingo! If I pay for it, it is mine to keep forever, I don't do rentals.

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I prefer to keep my books. I'm one of those weirdos who reads favorite books over and over again. Paying to rent them just doesn't do it for me.
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Old 05-16-2011, 06:32 PM   #40
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No insult intended about your reading habits: I check out dailycheapreads.com and the Freebies forum here constantly.

Shatzkin foresees thusly:

Quote:
I am guessing that a very high proportion of the owners of self-published and small press books will find the proposition attractive from the beginning. How the big publishers would react is less certain. My belief is that the smart ones will try it: put in some titles, perhaps from their deep backlist, to get some visibility as to how the program would work.

Meanwhile, the consumers who do this will determine the course of events from there. It seems possible that the impact of this offer will be similar to the impact of the e-ink readers: the heaviest book consumers will see the greatest financial merit in the proposition. And just like customers for Amazon Prime (one annual fee for shipping) and Kindle or Nook owners are highly resistant to buying outside those programs, customers for this subscription service would largely be lost to other book consumption. It will take a more powerful desire to read any one particular book to make it a purchase outside the subscription than it takes to buy it now.

So that, in turn, will drive more books into the program. Authors, and therefore their agents, won’t want to be left out. The early entrants to the program will reap a relative bonanza because they’re on a shelf with less competition which will drive further expansion of the title base.
So he sees it evolving in a stepwise fashion, with the indies leading the way and the Agency 6 putting in some titles, probably genre fiction, first.If it catches fire,and (given the enthusiastic reaction to Baen, it likely will) , then there will be a rush to get in.
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:43 PM   #41
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No insult intended about your reading habits: I check out dailycheapreads.com and the Freebies forum here constantly.

Shatzkin foresees thusly:



So he sees it evolving in a stepwise fashion, with the indies leading the way and the Agency 6 putting in some titles, probably genre fiction, first.If it catches fire,and (given the enthusiastic reaction to Baen, it likely will) , then there will be a rush to get in.
1. Why do you think that this is like Baen? Baen offers a narrowly tailored genre (military sf) in which they are the dominant publisher. And AFAICT, Baen's success is not based on webscriptions (which are basically bundling arrangements); Baen's success is based on the sale of its books for decent prices with no DRM.

2. Why would indies do this? They can already charge whatever price they want for their books - is the subscription service going to be cheaper than .99c - $2.99?

3. And who would subscribe to an indie subscription service? Finding an indie you like requires going through a *lot* of chaff - paying for a subscription means your choice is limited.

4. I don't even see the value proposition for the mainstream publishers - they can already price their backlists as they want. And even if they priced backlists cheaper, subscribers would still have to pay full price for the newer copies - meaning that they are paying for the subscription and paying to buy other books.

5. I don't see the comparison to Amazon Prime, Kindles, or Nooks *at all*. In fact, I think that Shatzkin is just talking out of his [message redacted]. People like Amazon Prime because it gives you free two day delivery of anything from books to kitchen supplies to flatscreen TVs for $80/year. And next day (and sometimes same day) delivery for only $4. People like it because the value proposition is very clear (assuming one buys a lot from Amazon). This is in no way comparable to e-reader subscriptions.

People like the Kindle or the Nook because they believe that they are good products - and the lock in probably makes them a little more "patriotic" toward their reader.

But Shatzkin basically seems to be saying that because people like some things, they will like other, unrelated things. But that just doesn't follow.

6. Book subscription services have been around for a long time - since the 20's with the book of the month club. They are basically on life support now.

They were successful through the 70's or mid-80's because they offered large parts of population: (1) information about books that they may not have heard of; (2) access to books that they would not otherwise have access to (this was particularly true for me and the sf book club when I was a kid in the 70's); and (3) they offered a modest discount over publisher pricing.

These clubs are all but defunct now because they can't offer the value that they once had; IMO they were mostly killed off by big box stores, which offered vastly greater selections of books, particularly in genres - and which also offered cheaper prices than the book clubs did. Amazon is even better in this regard, of course. And while they can still offer advice about which book you might want to read, there are thousands of other sources on the internet that do the same thing.

Since I can now basically pick any book a la carte, I don't really see the advantage of locking myself into a subscription service that may have me spending money on books I may not want.
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Old 05-16-2011, 08:46 PM   #42
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I wouldn't say Baen only publishes military SF. They have a ton of fantasy and other sub-genres of science fiction.
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Old 05-16-2011, 10:04 PM   #43
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I would be interested in a rental a la Netflix rather than a true subscription service. However, as long as there are libraries, there's an essentially free market there (or $15 /year with FLP) so I don't see a lot of profit in it unless you can guarantee popular titles with no wait and a very reasonable price.
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Old 05-16-2011, 11:45 PM   #44
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@ Andrew H

You make some good points. However, the subscription model offers two advantages:

1. You can get better prices than if you buy items individually
2. Curation.

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And who would subscribe to an indie subscription service? Finding an indie you like requires going through a *lot* of chaff - paying for a subscription means your choice is limited.

As you have pointed out, curation is needed-greatly needed-for indie writers. I can envisage an indie subscription service offering curation from a trusted team of reviewers and a modest price advantage .
For major publishers, price would remain the major consideration.
The advantages of subscription haven't disappeared because of the Internet. Despite what you read, the Internet hasn't quite abolished the laws of economics.
The Book of the Month Club is still going at

BOMC
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Old 05-16-2011, 11:48 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Joykins View Post
I would be interested in a rental a la Netflix rather than a true subscription service. However, as long as there are libraries, there's an essentially free market there (or $15 /year with FLP) so I don't see a lot of profit in it unless you can guarantee popular titles with no wait and a very reasonable price.
Your local library has a limited collection and there is often a long wait for books. There is an entrepreneurial opportunity there, I think.
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