Penguin Random House UK CEO Tom Weldon has proclaimed that eBook 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”.
The entire notion of Netflix for eBooks has been the holy grail of the publishing industry. Publishers have only begun to embrace it during the last year, although Penguin and Random House have not really committed themselves yet. The ones who have, such as S&S and HarperCollins mainly do it with their older backlist titles and rarely upload anything new.
Is the eBook subscription concept viable? Entitle, Oyster or Scribd does not divulge specific figures, so it unknown what type of user base they actually have.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten 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.