Tom Kabinet may be best known for its ongoing legal fight over its used ebook marketplace, but that’s not all there is to this startup. Founder Marc Jellema announced at a pitch at the Startup Bootcamp on Friday that he plans to launch a subscription ebook service later this year.
Details are still limited, but we do know that the service is expected to open in the third quarter with a cost of 5 euros per month. Jellema hasn’t revealed the specific terms of the subscription, but he plans to expand the service to six other countries in Europe by the end of 2016.
There’s no word yet how many titles have been secured, but Jellema is raising
has lined up an additional 300,000 euros in capital investment. eMerce.nl also reports that Jellema has a distribution deal with HEMA. This would appear to be a retailer with operations in seven countries, which could explain Jellema’s confidence.
But even with a retailer as a partner, operating this kind of service in 7 countries is an ambitious and perhaps foolhardy goal. Amazon, with all its resources, hasn’t pulled it off, and while Tom Kabinet could pull it off the odds are still stacked against the company.
Even leaving aside the question of whether the subscription model is viable, Tom Kabinet operates under a financial cloud. While its used ebook marketplace is legal under Dutch law (for the moment), the Dutch publishers who oppose it will almost certainly continue to sue, only this time pursuing their legal options in EU courts.
Right now there are German court rulings which contradict the Dutch court ruling that allows Tom Kabinet to continue operating. This gives the site’s opponents a chance to appeal to the European Court of Justice to decide the issue once and for all.
While the German court rulings are more technically correct under EU regulation, the EU has a strong tendency to support consumer rights over existing law. This is why the UsedSoft v Oracle decision was decided in favor of consumers being able to resell software licenses (irrespective of the license terms, which usually forbid resale).
But at this point it’s too early to say whether European consumers will ever enjoy a similar right to resell ebooks. It is, at best, a coin toss.
image by Ben+Sam