Earlier today Tom Weldon of Penguin Random House UK revealed that PRH would not be getting into the subscription ebook market. Speaking at The Bookseller’s Futurebook conference, the CEO for a branch of the world’s largest trade publisher said that:
Weldon said: “We have two problems with subscription. We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”
Weldon also said the company did not “understand the business model”, and who made money. But he acknowledged that subscription could work “in certain markets around the world in emerging economies where access to books and bookshops is extremely limited”.
He went on to add that PRH wasn’t planning to become a retailer, either, but that’s the lesser story today than the fact that a senior manager at PRH offered a completely nonsensical reason to avoid the subscription ebook market.
It’s not just that his explanation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny; it’s also nonsense. One doesn’t simply refuse to offer a service because one is “not convinced” that consumers want it. That is what polls are for, or even better one could always run a pilot test in a small market and let consumers vote with their pocketbooks.
What’s more, polling and market studies aren’t required to answer the question of whether consumers want this type of service; just keeping up on the news will tell you that they do.
- If consumers don’t want this then why does Amazon keep expanding Kindle Unlimited?
- If consumers don’t want this then why does Bertelsmann (Macmillan’s parent company) own a couple ebook services?
- If consumers don’t want this then how has Skoobe stayed in business for the past three years, and why do its publisher parents (Georg von Holtzbrinck and Bertelsmann) continue to invest in its expansion?
That explanation just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.