First came the authors who hated the terms Amazon was offering (but were never going to sign up for it in the first place), and now one startup founder is claiming that the subscription ebooks don’t work.
Jason Illian, the co-founder of Bookshout, posted an argument-deficient piece on Entrepreneur today in which he claims that the subscription ebook model itself is unworkable.
Note that I said that he claims it is unworkable; I cannot say that he argues the point because he doesn’t actually present any arguments. Instead Illian raises irrelevant details like ebooks only making up a minority of the retail consumer book market. He also claims the model doesn’t work because “many of the world’s top publishers” are still holding out.
The reason that these details are irrelevant, folks, is that Illian claims that the subscription ebook model itself doesn’t work.
He doesn’t claim the market doesn’t work. He doesn’t claim the market isn’t viable. Instead he points to the abstract idea of the business model itself and claims it is unworkable.
One can make that argument, and the best way to do so is by pointing to specific examples of the model having been tried and failed. Remember a few weeks ago when I argued that micropayments wouldn’t work, and named all those failed startups as proof?
That is how you argue whether a model will work or not.
Conversely, one can prove that a model works by pointing to examples where it worked. The Wright brothers, for example, proved powered flight worked when they launched their planes at Kitty Hawk.
And in the case of the subscription ebook model, I can give you a couple of examples which show that the model is working. (I could give you more examples but I don’t think it’s worth my time.)
For example, an author left a comment on a post earlier this week. The subscription ebook model is working for her:
I am a romance author with two series in KU, and currently make enough off KU alone to pay my living expenses. Since my books are 200+ pages, I for one look forward to the imminent change. Apart from the money, it will be highly motivating to know how many pages of my books were read every day.
Readers are signing up, authors are making money, and Amazon isn’t complaining. I’d say that Kindle Unlimited works.
And it’s not just working for her and many of the other authors with ebooks in Kindle Unlimited; this model is also working for Safari Books Online. That service has been offering nonfiction books for going on fifteen years.
If that is not a definition of a working business model, I don’t know what is.
In conclusion, this was a poorly argued piece from someone who has shown himself to lack basic knowledge of the current ebook market.
And no, I am not being unduly insulting; in his conclusion Illian lays out his concept for the ideal ebook service but doesn’t realize that he had described Amazon’s current operations:
I see the leading ebook service of the future as being a combination of lucrative subscription verticals, advertising in and around the book; new sales channels, where ebooks are bundled with physical content; comprehensive music/movie/ebook programs; and services that include digital ebooks and other content.
Aside from the advert aspect, Amazon already does all this in one form or another.
Edit: Felix reminded me in the comments that Amazon has ads on the Fire tablets and Kindle ereaders. So they are doing everything on that list.
image by Claudiabrauer