At an IDPF and BISG panel today as part of its Making Information Pay event, speakers addressed one of the key changes the publishing industry is undergoing: ebook subscriptions. When 24Symbols launched in 2010 as a Netflix-style model for ebook consumption, publishers weren’t quick to jump on board, at least not in the US. One reason may have been that the company was simply too far ahead of its time; at that time publishers were still being convinced that ebooks were even a viable format for reading. Subscriptions were just too far out there.
Now, ebook subscriptions are growing in popularity, with readers and publishers alike. Everything from short term loans, all-you-can-eat, paywall leveled, freemium, and open access are arriving on the scene, and each has its pros and cons.
According to data from a BISG survey, 80% of publishers reported that they would have to participate in subscription-based reading due to its popularity in the market. Those publishers have often started with midlist or backlist content, but as the concept and its compensation structure have become clear, some publishers are even placing their frontlist and bestselling titles in the models.
“Different compensation models depend on that, but is it important to own the works or to access them?” asked Ted Hill of THA Consulting to a capacity crowd. “The market drives the model.”
These models all have different structures and different variances in compensation. A library who participates in OverDrive is a subscription model, just as a single user who pays a monthly fee for Oyster or Scribd is as well. Of course, Hill highlighted the fact that other models that consumers and publishers are familiar with are also technically subscriptions, such as textbook rentals in higher education.
“The big concern right now is the impact of the so-called Netflix model, and whether all you can eat is good for [publishers] or bad for them.”