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Will we ever see a “Spotify for ebooks”?

Join us for a free webcast on April 26 to discuss the subscription model

My music buying habits have definitely changed over the years. I’m doing a lot more streaming now and rarely buying individual tracks or albums. I use Spotify but I also started using Rdio. I’m still in the free trial period for the latter and not sure which, if either, I’ll end up paying for.

One question that seems to keep popping up in the ebook publishing world is, “when will a Spotify for ebooks emerge?” You could argue that a few services already offer unlimited access to free ebook content. Those services are, of course, limited in their breadth. You won’t find any offering all the latest bestsellers, for example, but Spotify and other streaming music services let you listen to plenty of hits.

You could also say that Amazon already has something like this with their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library program (KOLL). This service lets Amazon Prime members borrow from hundreds of thousands of ebooks with no due dates. And it’s all included in the $79 annual Prime membership fee, so it’s almost like a free program, assuming you joined Prime for other reasons.

I’m not convinced KOLL is the answer though. It’s basically a throw-in, or an afterthought, to the Prime membership program. And while 300K+ titles is huge, I don’t believe the successful “Spotify for ebooks” will focus on breadth of content; I think it will be more about narrow focus and depth of content.

I don’t have much interest in an all-you-can-read ebook subscription model with a million titles, especially if it doesn’t have the depth I prefer. I’ll pay more for vertical subscriptions that offer me more depth. Sports and history are two of my favorite topics. Rather than paying $15/month for a broad catalog with limited depth in those two areas, I’d prefer to pay $10/month each, or $20/month total, for two separate vertical subscriptions with more titles that are likely to match my interests.

This is the type of discussion we’ll have at our free webcast on Friday, April 26 at 1PM ET. The webcast is called Why the Ebook Subscription Model Might Be Right for Your Content and features Safari CEO Andrew Savikas. Be sure to register now as slots are filling up quickly. Also, attendees will be able to ask questions during the webcast but if you’ve got any you’d like me to put on the top of the list for Andrew please email them to me.

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  • http://fj.je/ François Joseph de Kermadec

    O’Reilly’s Safari platform has always felt like a dream come true to me. While I definitely prefer to own the classics, technical books lend themselves very well to the rental process. Knowing that the volumes on offer are reference works that have been edited and selected with care — as opposed to cheap knock-offs written for the platform — is the cherry on the proverbial cake…

    • jwikert

      And I believe the model can be extended to other genres. I offered two exampled that would appeal to me (sports and history), but there are plenty of others. I believe these vertical subscription models will be an important part of the future revenue stream for publishers and authors.

  • Harold Jay Fannin – Author

    I have become an immense fan of both Mr. de Kermadec and Mr. Wikert. Mr. De Kermadec is one of the most talented writers in journalism and to say that is an understatement. He is more than articulate- he is poetic; he uses the King’s English as it was intended. Meanwhile, Mr. Wikert has a nose for what need to be discussed. Excellence in investigative reporting is his mainstay. OK- to the topic: The idea of Spotify as a potential source for books. The advent of the digital format opens up many opportunities including something like Spotify. I think we will find many options will be given to the consumer. What I am concerned about is the livelihood of authors. The better authors should be able to demand more money for their art. Otherwise, we end up with a technology induced Mulligan Stew of the mediocre mixed with the great forcing prices far too low to reward great artists. We need a new filtering system applicable to all forms of technical delivery systems that assist authors in their pursuit to get published that does not strip them of their earning potential. each year, the top 1000 authors need to be sited as such and their books delivered in a manner that protects their ability to be compensated according to their contribution. We need to reward talent to free it to focus on art. I am for all technologies that get people to read and think more at a low cost. We need to do this in a way to keep the art healthy and profitable so artists can be artists as a profession and not have it be an avocation after delivering pizzas for Papa Johns. I think we will be seeing some new opportunities in the future and new technologies that will help writers. I know my publisher, Inner-Face Publishing, as a new start up soon to surface, has some incredible ideas and technologies that will both aid and help the indie authors find their readers while enabling them to make a living in the process. We cannot give art away for free and expect to have great art. It can’t work that way. People will pay what is appropriate for great art. It must be a partnership between the artist- the publisher- the resales technologies.

  • stefan nickel

    amazon started with books and now you get everything you need. spotify started with music and in 3 years it could also feature a book streaming service. spotify having already all the important carrier partnerships like Deutsche Telekom, France Telekom, Orange etc. around the globe and media partner like Rolling Stone, VIACOM etc. with their own branded-apps within their platform etc. With this distribution network and their international licencing know how spotify could be a player to get the pole position.

  • Sabrina Edoward
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