Ever since I’ve been connected to the book world there has always been talk about a “Netflix for books.” The latest (very good) comparison was made this week by Peter Osnos in The Atlantic.
It’s important to remember, as Osnos does, that the publishing industry innovated with subscription services long before movies ever did. Ever heard of the Book of the Month club? There are also these services that allow you to check out just about any book you want called libraries.
But snark aside, a true subscription service that allows readers to pick the books they want for a monthly fee has proven to be a bit of a white whale for some time.
We seem to be closer than ever. Scribd, Oyster and the Kindle Lending Library are all hoping to be your go-to source for on-demand book rentals, and they’ve gained more traction than most of these attempts in the past.
And yet is really something people really want? Few people read more than one book a month. That is, in fact, one big source of the appeal of the BOMC. And an e-book rarely costs more than $9.99. And the people who read the most books (such as hard-core genre readers) are the ones who are reading books that are cheaper to begin with. And the library is free. So do we really need a an e-book subscription service?
Call me a skeptic. I spent most of January reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt on my iPad, and it set me back $8.85. That’s less than a month of Netflix.
What do you think? Can a subscription service take off?