Ebook Subscriptions

A Cengage Buffet

6 December 2017

From Inside Higher Ed:

Cengage, the publisher and technology company, is introducing a subscription service that will enable students to access Cengage’s entire digital portfolio for one set price, no matter how many products they use.

The new offer, called Cengage Unlimited, will give students access to more than 20,000 Cengage products across 70 disciplines and 675 course areas for $119.99 a semester. For 12 months’ access the price is $179.99, and for two years the price is $239.99. For students taking three or four courses a semester with assigned course materials from Cengage, the subscription could offer hundreds of dollars of savings a year, versus buying or renting the products individually.

Cengage described the introduction of the Netflix-style subscription service in a press release as a “bold move”; the company has set a strategic goal of being 90 percent digital by 2019. The new strategy is a notable departure from the traditional publishing sales model, which historically has relied on the sale of individual print textbooks. Print sales have been heavily disrupted, however, by the introduction of rental programs, piracy, the sale of secondhand books and the failure by some students to purchase textbooks at all due to prohibitively high costs.

Link to the rest at Inside Higher Ed and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.

Why O’Reilly Media is no longer selling books online

21 August 2017

From The Bookseller:

We recently announced that O’Reilly is no longer selling books and videos on shop.oreilly.com. We heard from some of our customers that they were unhappy about that decision, especially because no other sellers offer DRM-free e-books in multiple digital formats. They’re right about that, but there’s more to the story. And since we’ve always been transparent with our customers, here’s some additional context about why we made those recent changes.

O’Reilly has always been a privately held, self-funded company, and it’s a distinction we wear with pride. We don’t have any investors but our customers, who fund us by buying our products and services. That keeps us attuned to what the market is really telling us. But it also means we have to make decisions as we grow and change while living within our means—decisions about investments, about markets, and about our customers and employees.

O’Reilly started out as a book publishing company. I remember with pride joining the “animal” brand. But from the beginning, I knew that our core competency was not the actual books we printed but rather the knowledge of the network of authors and speakers who agreed to work with us to produce important and relevant content. That talent developed content that worked its way into books. But we always recognized that there were other ways to spread that knowledge, which led us to add a conference business, and a digital subscription business.

. . . .

Access to new subscription customers, both individuals and businesses, gave us even greater visibility into the needs of our users, which also took us into topic areas beyond technology. At the same time, digital enabled new learning modalities such as video and interactive content.

. . . .

Meanwhile, sales of books have declined consistently year after year since 2000! E-books expanded the market for a while, and direct distribution from oreilly.com was a great way to make them widely available while traditional retailers other than Amazon were slow to embrace that market. But starting a few years ago, e-book sales too started to flatten, and then to fall. Running oreilly.com as a distribution platform was effective, but also costly. It required a dedicated investment in e-commerce software, staff, marketing, and so on. It also required us to choose whether to direct incoming customers to the declining e-commerce business to buy standalone units, or to our growing subscription business.

As the slowdown accelerated, the contrast between the rapid growth of the subscription business and the interest in learning in new ways became ever more striking. Now, don’t get me wrong, we believe in books, and the effectiveness of text as a tool for sharing knowledge, but the business model that had given us such a great start three decades ago has changed deeply. Amazon is pretty much the only retailer still supporting computer books, and the unit sales are a small fraction of what they were in the past. We came up with creative ways to keep publishing books, supplementing our “definitive” books with smaller reports that we give away for free download, or as sponsored products, to capture either niche technologies or new approaches to learning. But all of this new creation meant we had to grow while balancing our total investment spending.

. . . .

So we had to make a tough decision, and we chose to support the side of the business that has the most customers, that is growing the fastest, and that supports all of the learning modalities that customers are demanding.

But we are also sensitive to those who still prefer to learn from and to own books. We are still publishing books, and you can buy them directly, either on paper or in a variety of electronic formats from a number of resellers, just not directly from us. We’ve closed our online store, not our publishing operation! We still support those who prefer the model of ownership to subscription.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

How Do Kindle Unlimited Subscribers Behave (And How Does it Impact Authors)?

14 April 2017

From Written Word Media:

Kindle Unlimited has revolutionized the eBook experience for both readers and authors. Last year we took a look at how Kindle Unlimited affects authors and publishers. This year we want to take a closer look at the habits of KU readers compared to non-KU readers, and what that means for authors whose titles are enrolled in KU. We surveyed almost 1,000 readers and analyzed the results to find out what the takeaways are for the author community.

. . . .

The service currently costs $9.99/ month, and there are over 1.4 million titles available to enjoy. Most of the books available are either classics or titles published through Amazon imprints and Kindle Direct Publishing. This means that if, as a reader, you most frequently read titles by popular, best-selling authors, you may not find the names you recognize available in the KU library. To date, none of the major publishers have opted to make their titles available through KU.

KU readers can read as many books as they want per month. The one limitation is that readers can only have 10 Kindle Unlimited books downloaded to their devices at a time. This means that readers can’t “hoard” books the way that they may normally feel inclined to.

. . . .

When you divide the global fund by the payout by KENP payout, you get the total number of pages read in KU for a given month.

For this exercise let’s use the data from February 2017. The Fund was $16.8 million and the payout per KENP was about $0.005.

KDP Global Fund / KENP Payout = Total number of Pages read in the month on KU

16,800,000 / 0.005 = 3,360,000,000

That’s over 3 billion pages read! If we assume the average novel is 250 pages, we can back into the number of novels read: 3,360,000,000 divided by 250 gives you 12,440,000 average length novels read through KU subscriptions per month.

Based on our survey data, KU subscribers read about 5 books per month. We can use this data to estimate a subscriber count for KU.

Number of KU Novels Read / Number of Novels read by one Subscriber = Total Number of Subscribers

12,440,000 / 5 = 2,488,000 KU subscribers

2.5 million readers in KU is a lot of readers, and because our calculations are based on pages read it’s likely that the 2.5 Million number represents the active readers enrolled in KU. We would guess there are even more inactive users who are subscribed but are not reading. There are limitations with our data, and we’re making quite a few educated assumptions but we think it’s safe to assume that there at least 3 million readers in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

. . . .

Over 71% of KU subscribers read 5 books per month or more. Compare that to non-KU readers, where only 57% of readers read 5 books per month or more. That makes sense since KU subscribers pay $9.99 per month for the service, there is an incentive to get your money’s worth. Also, people who read a lot of books will get the most value from KU as they were likely spending more than $9.99 per month purchasing books. 20% of our KU subscriber sample said they read more than 20 books per month!

Link to the rest at Written Word Media and thanks to Lucy for the tip.

Rakuten Kobo and bol.com launch ‘Kobo Plus’

28 February 2017

From the Kobo Newsroom:

Booklovers from The Netherlands and Belgium will never run out of things to read thanks to Kobo Plus. The new subscription service jointly created by Rakuten Kobo, leader in the digital eReading space, and premier online Dutch and Belgian retailer bol.com, offers readers the largest all-you-can-read selection of digital books in The Netherlands and Belgium, with titles ranging from new releases and bestsellers to classics and old favourites, including both Dutch and international titles. Customers can try the eBook subscription service free of charge for 30 days.

Digital reading enables people to carry their entire libraries with them wherever they go— gone are the days of having to choose which book to take on vacation or on the daily commute. In 2014, Kobo and bol.com partnered together, making it possible to access thousands of eBooks anywhere, on any device. The Kobo Plus subscription service is the next step in making the largest selection of books even more accessible, offering more than 40,000 titles—16,000 in the Dutch language—with considerable growth expected in the coming months.

. . . .

Kobo Plus was developed in close collaboration with leading Dutch publishers. The subscription service operates on a fair-share model, with payouts funded by subscription revenues, which enables a self-sustaining service built for the long-term—encouraging publishers to offer a wide selection of books from all genres. Kobo Plus was designed with the booklover in mind, and provides book recommendations tailored to individual readers’ interests.

Patrick Swart, CEO of Dutch publisher WPG Uitgevers, says: “As with any new business model, it will take some time for those involved to become accustomed with this new way of delivering books to readers. For publishers, a new business model entails a different approach to marketing books and for our authors it means they get compensated in a different way.

Link to the rest at Kobo Newsroom and thanks to Melissa for the tip.

PG is more than a little suspicious about authors being “compensated in a different way.”

PRH Still Doesn’t Like the Subscription eBook Model (The Fools!)

26 August 2016

From The Digital Reader:

Penguin Random House has in the past denied that readers want an ebook subscription service.

What with Kindle Unlimited now paying authors and publishers more than the Nook Store, and possibly even more than Kobo or Google, that excuse was getting a little thin, but recently PRH changed its tune.

The global CEO of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, was speaking at the Global Top 50 Publishing Summit at Beijing International Book Fair in China earlier this week . According to The Bookseller, Dohle said that:

PRH had not signed its titles up for any subscription services, such as Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Mofibo or Scribd, because the ‘all you can eat’ models threaten to “devalue” intellectual property (IP) at a time when most authors can barely afford to earn a living.

In the US, Dohle said 40% of the readership accounted for 85% of publishers’ revenue, so “heavy readers” switching to subscription models would have a “huge impact” on the industry.

He explained that the industry’s existing publishing model, successful for over 500 years, was “robust” and “not broken at all”, and argued that subscription models were “not in the reader’s mindset”. If they became popular, they would ultimately lead to “lower prices” and “a huge devaluation of IP”, Dohle said.

“A la carte is not broken […] I don’t see us supporting subscription models, because we just don’t need it,” he said. “Somehow we have to protect the measure of our intellectual property. Take an e-book for $12, that’s entertainment for 15 to 30 hours. That’s a fair deal compared with a movie and other media formats. I think we have a very robust pricing model in the market and subscription would just change the whole dynamic.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says this is wrong on so many levels (several of which are discussed in the OP), but PG has to mention one because he’s heard it so many times before from European publishing executives.

The value of a product or service is determined by the customer, not the seller.

If the customer will pay $10 for a product, that’s the product’s value. If the seller prices a product at $15 because that’s the true value in the seller’s mind, but the customer is only willing to pay $10, the product’s value is still $10.

Perhaps it’s partially a consequence of minimum book pricing laws in some European countries where the publisher sets the retail price, but, unless a customer is forced to purchase an item at a specific price (hello, college textbooks), in a free market the customer determines the value.

If a price is too high, the customer will simply not buy a product. (PG will note that readers in countries with fixed-price book laws regularly utilize a variety of technical means to disguise their physical location so they can purchase books online at lower prices.)

The idea behind the “devaluing” argument is that customers can be easily manipulated by simply charging higher prices. PG believes this is an elite executive’s ignorant view of the proletariat’s “mindset” and the epitome of stupid short-term thinking. Heaven forfend that the serfs ever hear of a lower price for anything. Prices must always go up and never go down.

If a customer, even a “heavy reader”,  enjoys reading books, but books cost more than the customer is willing to pay, the customer will respond in any number of ways — borrowing, buying used, finding something else to do that is also enjoyable and costs less, etc., etc., etc. No consumer is obligated to remain a heavy reader.

Playster Subscription Service: A Review

25 March 2016

From The eBook Evangelist:

Playster is a multimedia subscription service owned by Playster Corporation. The corporation has offices in New York and the UK. The service offers a combination of books,  audiobooks,  movies, music and games and calls itself “the Netflix of everything.”

You can access content on up to six devices. There are no usage stipulations per se, although there is a clause in the TOS that states the service can “take any action that imposes or may impose (as determined by us in our sole discretion) an unreasonable or disproportionately large load on our (or our third party providers’) infrastructure.” Theoretically, I suppose that could be used to stop someone who was using too much content, but there are no other explicit restrictions.

An Internet connection is required to use the service. It is a streaming service, not a download service. According to TOS, “Playster does use some data, and an Internet connection is required to access and consume our Content.”

. . . .

The service offers a bundled combination of books,  audiobooks,  movies, music and games for $24.95 month. Each of the services are available individually. Books and music subscriptions are $9.95 each monthly. Game subscriptions are $4.95 per month and movies are $3.95. There is a 30 day free trial before you are actually billed for your subscription and a credit card is required at the time of sign up.

. . . .

There were a quite a few titles in the preview section that I was unable to find once I had signed up. I don’t know if this is a geo-blocking issue. I have read a lot of complaints about Playster not having content they advertised as having as part of the service.

. . . .

There’s a fairly wide variety of books in numerous genres and categories: New York Times Bestsellers, romance, literary fiction, non-fiction, business books,  young adult and more. The books are a mixture of both newer and older material. The age of the titles varies with some newer (What the Dog Knows is from 2015), and some a couple of years old (American Sniper, 2012, Veronica Roth’s Four the Transfer,2013  and Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, 2013). There are also classics like 12 Years a Slave and Huckleberry Finn.

Currently, Playster has announced licensing deals with Findaway, Harlequin, Simon and Schuster and Harper Collins.

None of the subscription services have The Girl on a Train, so I was not surprised to see that ebook missing, although they do have it in audiobook form. I did not see The Hunger Games or Harry Potter as ebooks either.

The sheer numbers of certain kinds of books was interesting. There are lots of books by R. L. Stine (Goosebumps), plenty of Star War tie-ins and more Star Trek tie-in books than I have ever seen in one place in my life…. In fact, the science fiction collection was pretty amazing. There were collections of old SF magazines like Amazing Stories, Astounding, Weird Tales, Galaxy, IF – the list goes on and on. There were Best of Year anthologies from the 1970s that I would have loved to read.

Link to the rest at The eBook Evangelist and thanks to M for the tip.

Scribd Announces Major Changes to Subscription Service

17 February 2016

From Digital Book World:

As part of the re-structured service, all Scribd users will receive unlimited access to “Scribd Select” books and audiobooks, a rotating collection spread across a variety of genres. In addition, all users will have access to three books and one audiobook of their choice each month from the entire Scribd catalog. Titles from Scribd Selects do not count toward the user-chosen titles.

The monthly fee will remain $8.99, and the changes will go into effect sometime in mid-March.

The announcement comes on the heels of two changes to its service Scribd made last year. In June, the company reduced the amount of romance books it offered, and in August it eliminated the unlimited audiobook component of its service and instead transitioned to a credit system, disincentivizing so-called “power readers” from listening to a disproportionate amount of audiobooks each month.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Blloon subscription service on brink of closure

31 October 2015

From The Bookseller:

Another e-book subscription service is teetering on the brink of collapse after finding the business model unsustainable.

Blloon, developed by the founders of e-reader Txtr, has stopped taking on new users and will make a decision as to whether to close for good today, its c.e.o Thomas Leliveld has told The Bookseller.

It follows the news from Oyster in the US last month that its service was to close in 2016, despite raising $17m in funding from Highland Capital Partners earlier in the year.

Blloon launched in October last year offering a raft of titles from notable independent publishers such as Bloomsbury, Profile, Faber Factory, Guardian Books, Allen & Unwin, Lonely Planet and more and had plans to roll out to the US and Germany, where its founders are based, after its UK launch.

. . . .

“The service can only continue if the three parties, the users, publishers and service providers are all happy, and the users wanted more books, from companies like Penguin Random House, in our service. A lot of publishers have an issue with the unlimited model, for good or bad reasons. I was just about to hit the button of some more investment but I couldn’t see this building in the mid to long term into a financially healthy business. Then Oyster shut down and these guys had significantly more investment that I did and I said ‘if they are having trouble, this is going to be a problem’.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG says one of the challenges tech startups face when trying to innovate in the book business is having to deal with publishers who are constitutionally anti-innovation.

The major reason Amazon has been able to make ebook lending and subscription work is that it partners with indie authors who aren’t afraid to join it in experiments and innovation.

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