Ebook Subscriptions

Have You Canceled Your Account at Scribd? You Might Want to Double Check That

3 July 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

With the news coming out earlier this week that Scribd was cutting back its romance catalog (including titles from Harlequin), I’m sure some Scribd subscribers are thinking about cancelling their subscription (or have already done so). And so I wanted to pass along a friendly warning about Scribd’s cancellation process.

Many companies have a relatively obvious process to cancel an online subscription. They may make you jump through hoops, beg you not to leave, but in the end I’ve rarely had trouble canceling a service.

Scribd, on the other hand, has set up their cancellation process so that it is easy to trick yourself into thinking that you’ve canceled your account before you’ve actually completed the process.

I had to find this out the hard way, and I’m hoping you can learn from my mistake.

Back in May I decided that I no longer needed my Scribd account, and I canceled the monthly payment – or so I thought. Much to my surprise, I discovered earlier this week that I was still subscribed to Scribd.

It turns out that, after navigating through 3 screens and after having told Scribd three times to cancel my subscription, I hadn’t actually canceled the account.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels and thanks to Russell for the tip.

Subscription Services for E-Books: Like Netflix, Like Spotify, or Not at All?

1 May 2015

From Bill Rosenblatt via Forbes blogs:

Subscription e-book services are currently in a “chicken and egg” period of initial growth. On the one hand, they are a totally new way of consuming books, just as subscription services were a totally new way of consuming music when they were first introduced in the early 2000s. On the other hand, the major trade publishers are not embracing the model as enthusiastically as the major record labels did, even though subscription music services are now firmly in the mainstream.

. . . .

Subscription music services came into being in the very early days of digital music.  Two services, MusicNet and pressplay, launched in late 2001.  Each had music from three of the five major record companies at the time (EMI licensed its material to both services).  In the middle of the following year, the startup Listen.com was able to get music from all five majors for its Rhapsody service.  In other words, it took less than a year for on-demand music services to attract all of the major record labels.

The story with subscription on-demand video services was quite different.  Netflix started its online video service in 2007 with a small catalog of non-major-studio film titles; it took Netflix five years to get recent releases from major studios.  Even now, Netflix (as well as Hulu and other similar services) is often criticized for the lack of depth in its catalog.

Subscription e-book services look to be shaping up more along the lines of Netflix than Rhapsody or Spotify.

. . . .

Oyster’s new Ebook Store offers e-books from all five major trade publishers as well as hundreds of smaller publishers.  Why did Oyster add traditional retail to its subscription service?  Is Oyster’s subscribership perhaps not growing as quickly as the company (or its investors, including Peter Thiel’sFounders Fund) would like?  Is this a strategic “pivot”?

None of these companies publish subscriber figures, and indeed it’s too early to draw any long-term conclusions.  It’s also important to take into consideration the fact that book publishers behave more like movie studios than like record labels when it comes to the practice of “windowing.”  Major film studios don’t make movies available for home (through services like Netflix, on DVD or Blu-ray, etc.) use until months after their theatrical release.  Record labels have no such policies (though some would like to).  Trade book publishers do typically engage in a kind of windowing by publishing books in more expensive hardcover first and then, months later (if at all), in cheaper paperback.  Therefore the notion of not making “frontlist” titles available via certain e-book services should come naturally to book publishers.

. . . .

But the question remains of whether consumers are interested in the “grazing” model of media consumption that all-you-can-eat on-demand services facilitate.  It’s clear by now that a significant segment of the Internet population likes that model for music, despite the rising interest in music ownership on vinyl LPs.

Yet one set of data tells a story of different consumption patterns between music and e-books that could affect the way these services develop in the future.  Subscription music services have been displacing digital downloads of music from services like Apple iTunes, as unit volume from the latter category has shifted into steep decline.  But the same is not true for e-books.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs

Oyster, the Netflix of e-books, launching online store to take on Amazon

8 April 2015

From CNet:

Oyster, a subscription service for e-books that launched a year and a half ago, is expanding into online retail with an e-book store set to spar with Amazon’s.

Until Wednesday, Oyster only sold consumers a subscription book service for $9.95 a month. But with questions remaining over the popularity and viability of e-book lending services, Oyster is expanding into selling individual books, with hopes of attracting new customers to its service.

Oyster says its efforts come at an auspicious time. In the past year, book publishers have begun setting prices evenly across the e-book market. With similar pricing, customers will choose their store based on something else, like the look and feel of a service and its easy of use.

“You’ll have to compete on other things like discovery and design,” said Oyster CEO Eric Stromberg, who added that titles on his company’s store will often cost between $9.99 and $14.99 apiece, similar to Amazon, Apple and other digital book sellers.

. . . .

Unlike with music and television, Oyster’s e-book subscription model, which which was somewhat novel when it launched, has done little to supplant traditional book sales, mostly because binge-reading is harder to do. Binge-watching an entire season of Netflix’s political drama “House of Cards” in a single weekend, on the other hand, is much easier.

Yet Oyster did make early headway within the book industry by signing up three of the five biggest US publishers, amassing a library of more than 1 million titles. Yet even these publishers have chosen to wait as long as six months to release their newest titles on subscription services like Oyster. There’s another hitch: Oyster users can only access the service through an app for smartphones, tablets and computers — but not Amazon’s popular Kindle e-reader.

Link to the rest at CNet

Hachette chiefs dismiss subscription model

7 April 2015

From The Bookseller:

The c.e.o of Hachette UK and the chairman of Hachette Livre have both dismissed the e-book subscription model, calling it “absurd” and “cannibalising”.

In an interview in this week’s Bookseller magazine, Hachette UK c.e.o Tim Hely Hutchinson said: “People are always pitching new models to me, and the first thing I say is that the existing model works really well. I don’t believe in subscription. I don’t see how it would do anything other than cannibalise the business we already have.”

Meanwhile Arnaud Nourry, chairman and c.e.o of Hachette Livre, also condemned the model in an interview with French book trade magazine Livres Hebdo,  run in The Bookseller this week.

Nourry said the subscription model was a “flawed idea” even though it proliferated the music business. “Offering subscriptions at a monthly fee that is lower than the price of one book is absurd,” he said. “For the consumer, it makes no sense. People who read two or three books a month represent an infinitesimal minority. And there are bookshops. If I seem like a dinosaur, so be it. My colleagues at Penguin Random House say the same thing.”

. . . .

Hely Hutchinson acknowledged some publishers saw value in the model. “I know other people take a different view,” he said. “Within the limits of the law, I hope [HarperCollins UK c.e.o.] Charlie Redmayne will explain it to me, because I don’t get it.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The man from Mofibo

1 April 2015

From FutureBook:

Oyster, Scribd and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited may well be household names, but an earlier player in the e-book subscription market was Danish company Mofibo. Already established in Denmark and Sweden, and launching in the Netherlands this summer, Mofibo now has its sights set on the UK market.

The Copenhagen-based company is led by c.e.o. Morten Strunge, who could fairly be described as a prodigy. At 19, Strunge started mobile operator Onfone. He sold it five years later for £31m and in 2013, at the age of 26, he launched e-book subscription site Mofibo.

He is clear that—after Holland—the UK is the next target market for the company. ”We are not sure exactly when that will be. We are currently negotiating with publishers, but we will not launch until our catalogue is strong enough,” Strunge told The Bookseller.

Every nation’s market has its own characteristics, but one thing always reoccurs in negotiations with publishers: their fear—and conviction—that an e-book subscription service is cannibalistic by nature. The received wisdom is that it will take publishers’ best consumers, the heavy readers, and give very little in return.

But Strunge does not agree. The business model of Mofibo, built on Strunge’s experiences from his years with Onfone, takes into account that there will always be a group of clients who cost more than they give in return. “Three per cent of our clients account for 20% of our costs. That was also the case in Onfone’s business. There were mobile users who used their mobile subscriptions so much that they in fact represented a loss [to the business]. But they were outweighed by the mass of clients who did not use their plans as much.”

Link to the rest at FutureBook and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Amazon is Testing Bulk eBook Bundles in Japan

28 March 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

How would you like to have the option of buying an entire series with a single click?

If Amazon’s latest program catches on, you might. The retailer is now testing a new section of the Kindle Store in Japan called Kindle Buying Corner.

ITMedia reports that Amazon is selling bundles of single issue comic books. A total of 10 bundles are currently being offered. The bundles consist of 15 to 25 consecutive titles from a single series, and are being sold at a 10% to 15% discount. If a reader already owns one of the titles from the bundle, it is excluded from the sale to avoid duplicate purchases.

. . . .

In any case, this bundle offer is a good way for readers who buy the single issues to fill in the holes in their collection in a single purchase.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

Bad News for Kindle Unlimited in France?

20 February 2015

From Publishing Perspectives:

On Thursday, France’s Minister of Culture, Fleur Pellerin, announced that Kindle Unlimited (KU) and other unlimited ebook subscription services are illegal in France because they violate the country’s fixed book price law.

France’s fixed price law, called the Lang Law, was established in 1981 and says that publishers decide on the retail price of their books. Retailers are allowed sell the book for a maximum discount of 5% off the publisher’s price.

This announcement was based on a report written by Laurence Engel, the “mediator of the book” (la Médiatrice du livre) in France. Engel was commissioned by Pellerin to determine the legality of KU and other services in January 2015, about a month after KU launched in France.

The report by Engel found that, in the case of Kindle Unlimited and other ebook subscription services, the book prices are set not by the publishers, but by the subscription service — therefore violating the Lang Law. Engel recommended that the affected companies — Kindle Unlimited, Youboox and YouScribe — be given three months to comply with French law.

. . . .

Nicolas Gary of ActuaLitté writes that Amazon appears to be in the process of hiring an editor and establishing a publishing house in France. Through this new publishing company, Amazon could buy rights and sell its own editions at its own price via a book club model.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Why Millenials Don’t Want to Buy Stuff

7 February 2015

From Fast Company:

Compared to previous generations, Millennials seem to have some very different habits that have taken both established companies and small businesses by surprise. One of these is that Generation Y doesn’t seem to enjoy purchasing things.

The Atlantic‘s article “Why Don’t Young Americans Buy Cars?” mused recently about Millennials’ tendency to not care about owning a vehicle. The subtitle: “Is this a generational shift, or just a lousy economy at work?”

What if it’s not an “age thing” at all? What’s really causing this strange new behavior (or rather, lack of behavior)? Generational segments have profound impacts on perception and behavior, but an “ownership shift” isn’t isolated within the Millennial camp. A writer for USA Today shows that all ages are in on this trend, but instead of an age group, he blames the change on the cloud, the heavenly home our entertainment goes to when current media models die.

. . . .

So is technology the culprit, then? Though it often seems to be the driver, technology cannot be the cause either, because it is simply an extension of the way we think. New tech is created because someone has decided to think differently about the world. This may, in turn, spur new technology, but the new thinking is always first.

And there’s the culprit.

Humanity is experiencing an evolution in consciousness. We are starting to think differently about what it means to “own” something. This is why a similar ambivalence towards ownership is emerging in all sorts of areas, from car-buying to music listening to entertainment consumption. Though technology facilitates this evolution and new generations champion it, the big push behind it all is that our thinking is changing.

. . . .

Even in this strange new world, the economic laws of scarcity apply, and they are precisely what’s shifting. To “own something” in the traditional sense is becoming less important, because what’s scarce has changed. Ownership just isn’t hard anymore. We can now find and own practically anything we want, at any time, through the unending flea market of the Internet. Because of this, the balance between supply and demand has been altered, and the value has moved elsewhere.

. . . .

In other words, the reason we acquire “stuff” is becoming more about what we get from the acquisition. Purchasing something isn’t really about the thing itself anymore. Today, a product or service is powerful because of how it connects people to something—or someone—else. It has impact because we can do something worthwhile with it, tell others about it, or have it say something about us.

Link to the rest at Fast Company and thanks to Dave, who says this may bode well for ebook subscriptions, for the tip.

French Publisher Trade Group Charges that Kindle Unlimited is Illegal, American

6 February 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

While readers are flocking to subscription ebook services in droves, the concept is facing increased legal opposition in France.

In December Fleur Pellerin, the French Minister of Culture, called for the legality of subscription ebook services to be investigated, and now a group of French publishers are taking the position that it is illegal.

The Syndicat National de l’Edition  (SNE) released a statement today which reads (translated by Google):

After careful consideration and legal analysis, the Office of SNE is concluded last December that the subscription offers whose prices are not set by the publishers are not legal, and except as specified by the 2011 Law on the price of digital books, namely the collective use offers proposed for vocational purposes, higher education or research. In these sectors, in fact, multi-subscription offers publishers have long been at the initiative of the publishers themselves, and correspond to the specific characteristics of their business models. In contrast, the market for “mainstream”, the law does not allow multi-vendor subscription offers only subscription offers consist of one editor, who control the price.

. . . .

In letting users read as many books as they want for a flat monthly fee of 10 euros, Amazon is in effect setting the price itself, and SNE believes this is illegal. And they could well be correct, although we will need to wait for the French government to finish its investigation before we know for sure.

Link to the rest at Ink, Bits & Pixels

Why “Spotify For Books” May Not Be The Future Of Publishing. (Yet.)

29 January 2015

From The Economist:

“BEWARE of the person of one book,” said Thomas Aquinas, a medieval friar and author. The risk of encountering such unscholarly types is rarer in modern times. Digital devices can hold dozens of e-books, so people can carry around a whole shelf of reading material with them. Now a new crop of e-book subscription companies is offering bibliophiles the chance to consume as many books as they like, from a huge range of titles, for a flat fee of around $10 a month.

It is a bit like having a whole lending library in your pocket—but with no need to return the books. In America the main providers of e-book subscriptions include Amazon, Oyster and Scribd.

. . . .

The subscription model has already taken off in music and television, with providers such as Spotify and Netflix. Consumers have shown an increasing preference for such all-you-can-eat bundles, as opposed to buying each item separately. That worries book publishers and authors, who still make most of their money from sales of single copies. So far they have approached subscription services cautiously, holding back their newest and most popular titles from them.

. . . .

The record companies tolerate music-streaming services like Spotify, which pay them only modest fees, because the alternative is a continued rise in music piracy—on which they earn nothing at all. However, piracy of e-books is not such a problem: it is perfectly feasible for publishers to keep back some titles from subscription services and make money by selling individual copies of them.

Link to the rest at The Economist and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Next Page »