The founders of Txtr started an e-book subscription service in 2014 called Blloon. It was only available in the United Kingdom but the company had plans to expand into other markets, such as Germany and the United States. Sadly, Blloon is yet another victim of the apathy readers have of subscription services and the company will be shutting down.
The Blloon business model was quite different than the type of unlimited e-book subscription services offered by Amazon and Scribd. They offered the ability to pay per pages read. 100 pages cost £1.29 or you could shell out£3.99 for 500 pages, or £6.99 for 1,000 pages. When a new user signs up they instantly get 1000 free pages, which is normally good enough to read a few e-books.
A number of publishers had signed up with Blloon such as Allen & Unwin, Diversion Books, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lonely Planet, Open Road Media, Profile, RosettaBooks and Workman Publishing. You would be hardpressed to find a modern bestseller in their portfolio, which is one of the reasons why only after a full year the company is closing their doors.
I am not alone in thinking that e-book subscription services are not a viable business model. Penguin Random House UK CEO Tom Weldon proclaimed that e-book subscription websites such as Amazon Unlimited, Scribd and Oyster are not viable business models. “We have two problems with subscriptions. We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.” Weldon also said the company did not “understand the business model”, and who made money. But he acknowledged that subscription could work “in certain markets around the world in emerging economies where access to books and bookshops is extremely limited”.
Since Tom made those remarks Oyster, Entitle and now Blloon are all closing their doors and getting out of e-books.
Update: The Founder of Blloon told Good e-Reader “Prior to news on our website, please be informed that Blloon is halting its service to end-users and not shutting down as such – at last not now. We have informed our users and also refunded them for the last month of subscription. We are evaluating the way forward and are in progressed talks with potential buyers.”
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.