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Amazon’s Netflix-style Ebook Sub Plan Just Validated 24 Symbols, Flatleaf

The Wall Street Journal broke a story last night that Amazon are planning to offer a new all you can read subscription offer for their Amazon Prime members. Inc. is talking with book publishers about launching a Netflix Inc.-like service for digital books, in which customers would pay an annual fee to access a library of content, according to people familiar with the matter.

This is great news for me. I’ve been wanting to see someone offer this kind of service for a couple years now; really ever since I got a subscription to Netflix.

The reason I like the idea (and why I think it could succeed) is simple. There are many books that I would like to read but I do not want to buy.

Do you want to know why I got a Netflix subscription? It’s because I wanted to work my way through all 29 seasons of Star Trek without having to spend a thousand dollars or more to get the DVDs (retail price back then). The same general idea applies for ebooks.

But this could also be good news for a couple startups. Both 24Symbols and Flatleaf are planning to offer a similar service to the one leaked yesterday, and they could benefit simply from the fact that they are not Amazon.

I’m sure you’ve heard of 24Symbols, but Flatleaf are still in stealth mode (at least, they were in stealth mode; Amazon gave it a reason to go public). This relatively young company are getting ready to launch the initial service and they are still working to sign publishers. I’ve spoken to Mogens Neilsen, the founder of Flatleaf, and while I can’t tell you everything, I do know that he plans to offer subscription to premium content and PD titles that users can read for free. Users will also be able to buy the premium ebooks offered under the subscription.

Sidenote: The reason I know about Flatleaf is that I am about to get involved in the company.If anyone wishes to contact Flatleaf, please let me know and I will forward your email.

Now, while it’s good news that Amazon want to do this, there’s also a catch. Not all publishers like the idea. Some believe that it lessens the value of the book. I disagree. This would no more cheapen the value of a book than libraries.  The main difference between a public library and how they’re funded; as far as the end user is concerned they function in the same manner.

And the success of Netflix makes it clear that there is a market.

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yuzutea September 12, 2011 um 12:30 pm

I totally agree with this. I think it’ll potentially be more lucrative (for the publishers) than public libraries. Do they think libraries cheapen the value of books? Also, there’s the vast used book market, where people are selling books online (and in used book stores) for pennies. I actually think this is the best chance publishers have of fighting piracy.

It is true that it may be worrisome Amazon is behind this; that is why publishers should support strong rivals also.

Peter September 12, 2011 um 1:56 pm

Public libraries don’t try to force you to buy a proprietary ereader from them- that’s the difference.

Anytime you hear about publishers not liking "the business model" what that really means is they don’t like a Kindle monopoly.

My question is- why do we need this when we already have public libraries and they already offer ebooks? It seems like it will just result in higher hardware prices.

Consumers and booksellers in the ebook space take into account the full cost of the ecosystem- price of books + price of ereader hardware- when they make a purchase. Thus, when the price of ebooks went up- the cost of ereaders went down. Total consumer spending was the same, but the publishers and author’s got a bigger piece of the pie.

This could reverse that.

MNielsen September 12, 2011 um 1:57 pm


Thank you letting us de-stealth ourselves here on The Digital Reader!

I would like to add to this nice write-up that FlatLeaf will also focus a lot on the social aspect of reading. General membership is free and allows users to create discussion groups and rate and comment on books they have read. Another feature we hope members will like is the multiple ways we will try to connect you to new reading material.

If you want to learn more about us you can contact us from our site.

Elmo Glick September 12, 2011 um 9:59 pm

Good article. But why the "Amazon are" but "Flatleaf is" weirdness? I’m pretty sure that Amazon is not an archipelago.

Mikaela September 13, 2011 um 6:02 am

There is also, a Swedish start-up that primarily focus on PD books. Right now it is online only, but apps are coming according to their webpage

Alan Cramer September 14, 2011 um 4:48 am

How would this effect the thousands of independent publishers/writers whose books are int the top 1000 or so. There are many of us who sell more than a 1000 books a month on but are not affiliated with big publishers. if you look at the top 100 books on amazon at any given time, at least 20 or independents. And because of the pay scale more and more "published" authors are going the independent route. It almost sounds like the publishers put amazon up to this

Katmarie September 20, 2011 um 9:46 am

I think indie readers will continue to spend their money with indie publishers & authors, Alan. I know I will. My favorite genres are poorly represented by the Big 6, so if ebooks from major publishers are the only ones Amazon puts in their subscription plan there will be no reason for me to join. I can get those at the library, and still give my money to the indies.

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