I’m sure you recall the leak earlier this week that Amazon are working on a Netflix-style ebook subscription service. That leak caused a small flurry of similar services to come out of the woodwork, including Flatleaf, Afictionado, and now Litfy.
Litfy just launched this past month, and currently they are focused on offering ebooks for the academic market. At first glance, you probably won’t think that Litfy will offer a Netflix-style ebook subscription. They currently only have public domain titles, and there’s no charge to use the service. They plan to offer apps, too, and those will be free as well. In fact there’s not even any mention of a fee. There’s a reason for that.
Litfy are a test bed for Platify, a Swedish startup. They plan to get into eBook and digital content subscription services, and they are using Litfy to refine the concept and tweak the features offered to users. When they are done they will have platform that they can use to either offer ebooks themselves or they could license the platform.
It’s rather interesting, but I’m not sure it’s such a great idea to focus on this one niche. The academic ebook subscription market is dominated by 2 names: Coursesmart and Vitalsource. Either one of those companies have enough funds that they could buy Platify just using their pocket change. Also, the digital textbook rental market has gotten quite crowded this fall. Litfy will have to compete with Amazon, Chegg, and Kno, and those are just the companies that rent the digital textbooks. Add in the ones that sell them and the market implodes upon itself.
Now, if you regard Litfy as a test bed then it doesn’t have to be commercially successful, but it’s still a fair amount of effort focused on a highly competitive niche. I’m going to be watching to see if it pans out.