Sunday, September 07, 2008

Buy to Own versus Rent to Read

When the book-trade first started its digital journey, the internet wasn’t a super highway, broadband and WiFi were distant dreams. The internet more of a dirt-track than a highway and cloud computing was invented. It made sense to migrate to digital storage devices such as CDs. These were relatively low cost, could be easily distributed along side physical materials and offered new digital features and relatively low cost.

We all know what happened to the CDRom in publishing and the early enthusiasms of the Internet.

We now find ourselves, years later, at the cusp of the second significant step change opportunity, the ebook mark 2. The super highway and broadband has happened and we now can effectively download large digital files to devices that are capable of holding hundreds of books. Amazon has gone one stage further and enable you download files directly from their store, over WiFi, to their Kindle.

So is downloading the right approach the logical business model? Has it the legs to last the course or is it as some believe a transitional step?

As the public is being whipped up into the pre Christmas ebook hype and we finally see content is starting to slowly become available, do we really think that the current slick looking Sony and geeky looking Kindle are the answer. Most of all is the business model right and that consumers should seriously invest in the ereader now?

Let’s take one step back. The world is going WiFi and broadband to boot. All laptops now come Wi-Fi enabled. Dongles are widely available to connect to the laptop from anywhere. The service contracts are now common to enable 3G services to now consume as unlimited much data. Smartphones are common and are connected to 3G services. So we are now moving to a ‘permanently connected’ broadband service. Who switches off their mobile?

So why on earth would you want a download model?

This brings us to an interesting switch from ‘buy to own’ to ‘rent to read’. It doesn’t stop the consumer buying perpetual access, or a physical digital bundle, it merely questions why you would buy a download that could be as obsolete at an 8 track in only a short time?

This doesn’t cover the question of whether the current one dimensional readers are the best digital devices, whether they can be read upside down on a sunny beach or backlit in bed. It merely questions how and what consumers should be investing in today and the digital business model we adopt.

1 comment:

Adam Hodgkin said...

Great posting. My own feeling is that too often the focus of discussion has been on 'ebooks' and if we were to think more about 'digital libraries' we would get closer to what its going to be like when everything is in the cloud. Publishers should start to think about helping readers to build their digital libraries. A project where meta-data and interoperability becomes more important than ownership.