The Wall Street Journal broke a story last night that Amazon are planning to offer a new all you can read subscription offer for their Amazon Prime members.
Amazon.com Inc. is talking with book publishers about launching a Netflix Inc.-like service for digital books, in which customers would pay an annual fee to access a library of content, according to people familiar with the matter.
This is great news for me. I've been wanting to see someone offer this kind of service for a couple years now; really ever since I got a subscription to Netflix.
The reason I like the idea (and why I think it could succeed) is simple. There are many books that I would like to read but I do not want to buy.
Do you want to know why I got a Netflix subscription? It's because I wanted to work my way through all 29 seasons of Star Trek without having to spend a thousand dollars or more to get the DVDs (retail price back then). The same general idea applies for ebooks.
But this could also be good news for a couple startups. Both 24Symbols and Flatleaf are planning to offer a similar service to the one leaked yesterday, and they could benefit simply from the fact that they are not Amazon.
I'm sure you've heard of 24Symbols, but Flatleaf are still in stealth mode (at least, they were in stealth mode; Amazon gave it a reason to go public). This relatively young company are getting ready to launch the initial service and they are still working to sign publishers. I've spoken to Mogens Neilsen, the founder of Flatleaf, and while I can't tell you everything, I do know that he plans to offer subscription to premium content and PD titles that users can read for free. Users will also be able to buy the premium ebooks offered under the subscription.
Sidenote: The reason I know about Flatleaf is that I am about to get involved in the company.If anyone wishes to contact Flatleaf, please let me know and I will forward your email.
Now, while it's good news that Amazon want to do this, there's also a catch. Not all publishers like the idea. Some believe that it lessens the value of the book. I disagree. This would no more cheapen the value of a book than libraries. The main difference between a public library and how they're funded; as far as the end user is concerned they function in the same manner.
And the success of Netflix makes it clear that there is a market.