eBook Subscriptions: friend or foe?
The controversy that is the eBook subscription service continues to cause a stir. Readers can now gorge themselves on a buffet of eBooks for a set price per month, but what are the implications of this for the publisher? And, rather than determine whether subscription is friend or foe, how can publishers make the reader-orientated model work best for them now that it has arrived?
Netflix and Spotify are often banded about as good examples of the demands of the end user – proof that the all-you-can-eat model has significant potential in the global market, so why shouldn’t we see similar success for ebooks? The Bookseller’s Digital Census of 2014 suggested that more than a quarter of publishers are now selling subscriptions, with more than half believing it will become a viable model in future. Subscriptions are being pitted as the future of digital publishing, and the next step of its evolution.
Amazon’s move to the subscription market in July ’14 certainly fortified the potential of the subscription model within the industry. Kindle Unlimited is not currently offering content from the ‘Big Five’, and publishers can and should enjoy this marketplace in which Amazon arguably isn’t calling the shots. Comparative studies (like this article on CNET) suggest that Kindle Unlimited is not as user-friendly as the newer, purpose-built subscription applications, which offer users versatile ebook platforms, suggesting Amazon is supporting but by no means leading the subscription effort.
Vearsa is proud to include subscription services Scribd, Oyster, Skoobe, Bookmate, 24 Symbols and Entitle in our growing list of sales channels. We have seen first-hand that subscription services provide an excellent opportunity for publisher backlists to access fresh markets. Subscription services are different to retail channels in more than just business model – services such as Scribd pride themselves on more than just selling the content to users – their aim is to engage readers, encourage discoverability, form new cultures and provoke discussion around high quality content with a social media approach to book reading. These engagement hubs form tangible, measurable, definable feedback for publishers, which cannot be obtained from a direct purchase, as discussed in more detail here by 24Symbols’ Justo Hidalgo.
Scribd (whose subscriber numbers are growing on average 31% per month since 2013) have found that “because there is no cost to trying out a book, people read differently on Scribd, they’re much more experimental” – with more than half of titles being discovered and not searched for. There is a far greater engagement with older content and less well-known titles and authors, presenting ample opportunity for backlist titles, particularly romance novels.
A safe path forward
Publishers still on the fence about subscription should consider running a trial for selected content – preferably backlist titles, allowing you to monitor the performance of those titles for a given period. Vearsa’s platform will accommodate this for you – our technology can provide any sales channel with a tailored feed of your content, permitting publishers full control over where (and which) content is made available.
If you would like more information about Vearsa’s services, get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org. Existing publishers should feel free to contact their account manager, who can assist them with subscription service trials or provide.
--Helen Burnett, Retailer Manager at Vearsa
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