Some would suggest that eBooks have had it easy to date. In the main the industry has merely poured the physical content into the digital container and cried ‘Hey Presto!’ But that could be seen as short-sighted and leaves the door wide open for others to do something different. Subscription models by themselves are different even if they merely offer the same content on a different payment model, but they also have the power to offer more for less.
I don’t think we’re far away at all from this new way of buying and reading ebooks being ubiquitous. Personally, I’m still rather too attached to my paper to go all in on ebooks, but if I was going to, I think I’d be quite happy to subscribe if the service was good and the library extensive.
It’s the perfect model for people who want to carry out research and perhaps only need access to certain parts of specific books. It can be expensive buying several books when all you want is a handful of pages. In education too, the subscription model strikes me as being ideal. I spent a fortune on books at university. It would have been fantastic to have paid a smaller fee for short-term access.
I’m less convinced about subscriptions for fiction. I think there’s still something special and unique about investing in a book, its author and their story. That intangible relationship between reader and author may suffer when the options are limitless and the payment is all-encompassing.
But then, of course, that was what people said about listeners, artists and the music industry, where subscription services like Spotify and Rdio now have millions of users. I used to love my CD collection, but now I subscribe and I couldn’t be happier. To borrow from the quote above, I get more for less. And who doesn’t like the sound of that?
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