December 6, 2012

New study says consumers want a “Netflix for books”


PaidContent reports on a new survey of UK consumers that shows strong support for subscription-based ebook libraries, a la the model perfected by Netflix or Spotify for movies and music. Several such services are currently in development, including Oyster, 24symbols and Bookboard.

The new survey, by media strategy agency Oliver & Ohlbaum, shows:

29 percent of current UK ebook users very interested in such a prospect — and only three percent not at all…. For a “Spotify for books”, most consumers say they would like to pay only up to £5 ($8) per month. But consumers will naturally always aim low when asked — and the high end of even that margin (£5 per month) would double UK ebook buyers’ annual ebook spending to £60 per year ($96).

Industry analysts are watching subscription book start-ups closely, hoping to learn if a such a model could move the ebook market “from ownership to access.”

Any new subscription service faces a vast challenge: convincing big publishers to provide ebooks. As Laura Hazard Owen notes in PaidContent “It is still hard to conceive of how this would exactly work, because we are so, so far from any kind of model that gives access to publishers’ new titles.”

That said, the report comes on the same day that Amazon announced a similar project for young readers: Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, which offers books, games, and videos for children for a monthly subscription fee. Content for the new service comes from Andrews McMeel Publishing, Chronicle Books, DC Comics, Disney, HIT Entertainment, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Marvel, Nickelodeon, PBS, Reading Rainbow, and Sesame Workshop.

According to a report by PublishersLunch [subscribers only], the new service gives subscribers access to “1,000 Kindle ebooks, 329 videos and 157” with content “sorted by their child’s age and gender” so that “parents can control what content the child can access.” It will launch “as part of an automatic OS software update ‘in the coming weeks.'”



Kelly Burdick is the executive editor of Melville House.