The Bookseller published an interview yesterday where Arnaud Nourry, the CEO of Hachette Livre, where he discusses ebooks, the publishing industry, and other topics.
One part in particular caught my eye. Nourry shared his justification for keeping Hachette Livre out of the subscription ebook market:
We now have an ecosystem that works. This is why I have resisted the subscription system, which is a flawed idea even though it proliferates in the music business. Offering subscriptions at a monthly fee that is lower than the price of one book is absurd. For the consumer, it makes no sense. People who read two or three books a month represent an infinitesimal minority.
That doesn’t really make any sense, not when you think about it from Hachette’s perspective.
Nourry is avoiding the subscription ebook market because (as he sees it) most people don’t read more than a single book a month. I think he meant buy, not read, but in either case I would think that the non-reader or non-buyer is exactly the type of person which makes the ideal customer for subscription ebook services.
The non-reader or non-buyer is not a customer right now, so there is nothing to lose by recruiting them into a subscription ebook service. IMO, they would make the ideal subscriber. They’ll pay $10 a month for a subscription which they won’t use.
That money will end up in the pockets of the subscription service, but some of it can be diverted into Hachette’s pocket via upfront fees. That’s exactly what the movie studios do, and in this case it makes good business sense.
This isn’t the first time the CEO of a major publisher used consumers as an excuse for avoiding this market. Penguin Random House UK Tom Weldon made a similar argument last November which made as little sense then as Nourry’s argument does now.
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
Neither argument really makes any sense, not when you think about it from publisher’s perspective. If consumers don’t want it then there’s no risk that it will cannibalize sales. This makes it safe to experiment, wouldn’t you agree?
images by docoverachiever