Ebooks – Another Model?

Not another ebook post, I hear you groan.  I am aware many people out there don’t care about ebooks, but ebooks are now such a big part of my reading life that I can’t not blog about them.  And hey, Ebook Week!

Unless you’ve been steadfastly ignoring all things ebook-related for the past few months (in which case, you’ve probably not reading this, having quickly glanced at the title), you’ve probably aware that pricing and distribution models for ebooks have been causing some controversy recently.  And I think we’re still some way off in gaining consensus as to what the future state model will end up being.  But anyway…

I’m on a few reader panel-type email lists for some publishers and bookstores – the kind where they send out questionnaires now and again to gauge public opinion on various topics, ranging from cover designs to newsletter content.  Recent ones have been focusing on ebooks (and yes, I suspect I probably skewed their results a bit and ended up as a bit of an outlier).  While I wasn’t going to blog about the first one, I had a similar questionnaire from a second organisation, so it sounds as though the major publishers and booksellers are thinking along the same lines and it’s not a super-secret experiment (I know – sending out email questionnaires to hundreds of people does not equal super-secret, but still, I thought I would practise some discretion).

Err… get to the point already, you say?  Basically, the questionnaires were around a subscription model for ebooks – you pay x amount each month and can borrow x number of books – and they were trying to figure out where the right price points would be.  There were some variations, for instance, what if you were also allowed to keep a certain number of books from the population you borrowed, or more interestingly, what if they tossed in a free ebook reader which you could then keep at the end of your subscription?

Now the latter interested me more, because I can quite easily see me buying that as a gift for someone.  But I was still a bit meh on the idea of subscribing to some sort of ebook borrowing service, and having thought about it a bit more, it comes down to me committing that I would (1) read a certain number of books a month (2) selected from a population of books I have no control over.

I struggle enough with getting through the books I borrow from the library within the library loan timeframes, and I hate feeling pressured to finish a specific book by a certain date (oh look, a clue as to why I’ve pretty much given up on reading challenges).  And with geographical restrictions and the like, I’m not convinced that the selection of books provided would actually be books I’d be interested in reading.  So overall, I’m not convinced I would go for the above – although it may be a cheaper way to trying a new ebook reader.

What about you?  If you’re an ebook reader, would any of the above appeal to you?  And if you’re not an ebook reader, do you think an ebook subscription service would convert you?

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2 thoughts on “Ebooks – Another Model?

  1. I got asked the same question in a survey just yesterday, so I agree, it looks like they really are considering it. Although, IIRC, the question in this particular survey made it clear that you could “borrow” the book for an unlimited period, and the only restriction was how many you could have at the same time.

    I’d have to know more details (mainly, as you mention, the pool of books available in this service), but I’d be interested. I’m already paying money for borrowing books from the library (the actual borrowing is free, but my local branch is tiny, so 99% of the books I borrow I request from another branch, and that has a charge of 60p per book), so it wouldn’t be much different.

  2. Rosario – 60p for a request?!! I’m going to appreciate my local library a lot more.

    I think a lot depends on the pricing and how flexible it is. I think I would prefer some sort of sliding scale of charges, where the more you borrow, the cheaper the “per book” charge is, because that doesn’t make me feel as though I *have* to read a certain amount of books over the period to make it worthwhile.

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