A new ebook service launched earlier this week, and once again I am gnashing my teeth in envy. Skoobe is the Netflix style flat rate subscription plan that I've been wanting for a while now, only it's happening in Germany.
Skoobe is a joint venture between Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck, 2 publishing and media conglomerates. It's currently focused on just German language titles, and it does not sell ebooks. I don't see how many titles are offered, but the press release boasts about having new works including iSaacson's Steve Jobs bio, so I would assume that it is decent. Content can be read via the branded iOS apps (Android apps are coming). The fee in the intro phase is 9.99 € a month, and you can have up to five titles out at the same time as well as up to 3 apps registered to an account. You can even read offline.
Do you know what I find most interesting? The two conglomerates above re the parent companies for a bunchaton of publishers, including Random House and Macmillan here in the US. These are 2 of the Big 6, and neither likes library ebooks (RH just raised their prices for library ebooks). They also didn't like Bilbary's ebook rental service.
But now I think I see why they passed on Bilbary; Skoobe was in the works. Publishers have long been said to be looking for an alternative to library ebooks; I think that Skoobe is an experiment in a new business model.
But do you know what's even more interesting? Holtzbrinck owns Macmillan, and (I think) if you go down a couple steps from Macmillan, you will find Afictionado, an ebook rental service that is in the works in the UK. Afictionado is going to have around 35k to 40k titles when it launches in the UK later this year, with the US market to follow.
This changes the whole ebook market. If these 2 services work out for Holtzbrinck, they might decide to jump into it whole hog. This could potentially be a great service for all of us.
2012 is going to be a fascinating year.