Streaming content: Why buy when you can borrow so much more?

Why ownership of streaming content is overrated

I remember when the early music streaming services were being launched and how I knew I’d never join one. I want to own my content, darn it! Now I rarely buy songs but I love listening to Spotify. I’ve evolved. I’m not alone though and I’m convinced the streaming content model will be very successful with ebooks.

I was speaking recently with an industry colleague and he mentioned how DVDs are now more of a hassle than an asset. Think about it. We used to pride ourselves on that shelf full of jewel cases but I think he’s right. How many times do I watch a video/episode/movie again? Almost never. A scene or storyline might come up in conversation where I’d like to show someone a clip on my phone/tablet/computer though. In other words, cloud access to that content (via YouTube, Hulu, a digital locker, etc.) is more useful and valuable to me than the DVD collecting dust in my living room.

Look at the numbers: According to estimates for 2012, 42% more movies will be viewed via streaming than DVD.

Curation counts

What’s next? Books, of course. Services like Safari Books Online are a terrific model to study. (In the spirit of full disclosure I should note that Safari is jointly owned by O’Reilly (my employer) and Pearson.) Then there’s Amazon who has their own Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. I’m not a fan of Amazon’s program, mostly because they don’t offer publishers and authors a pay-for-performance model like Safari does. Amazon’s program also reminds me of the old shovelware days when books came with CDs stuffed with all sorts of junk. Safari’s list, by comparison, feels more curated and well-tuned for their target audience. That’s the key here, btw…focus a streaming content subscription on a vertical topic (e.g., technology, sports, history), not some all-you-can-eat program where only about 5% of the titles appeal to any given subscriber.

Similar to my earlier attitude toward music, many consumers still feel more of an attachment to something they own vs. something they borrow or stream. But if we’re really heading towards an always-connected world why should I care whether I own the EPUB version of a book when I can access it via a streaming service through my device’s browser?

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