Wednesday, March 05, 2014

eBook Subscriptions Part 3: The Future Should Be Significant

In the last two articles we looked at today’s subscription market and some of the players, but what of the future? Do we really believe that the consumer will continue to want to ‘buy’ eBooks that they effectively don’t own, that they can’t easily share with others and that they are prohibited from reselling. Adobe may have backed down from their heavy handed approach to their initial ACS5 upgrade plans, but DRM remains a millstone around consumer’s necks and wedded to yesterday’s 'download to a device' ownership model. Today the media world is moving towards on demand, streamed and cloud based services whilst ebooks often appear to be still stuck in an eink device type offer.

Some would suggest that the eBook market is already a mature and well established, others would suggest that it is merely at first base and has some major changes and challenges on the horizon that will redefine it, in terms of its content, context and commerce.

Some will look at the other media consumer markets; music, film, TV, games, newsprint, magazines, etc and see clear and growing trends towards on-demand subscription services. Some of these sectors are further ahead of others and all may be moving at different speeds, but they do appear to be moving in the same direction. So should eBooks remain stuck in some pseudo digital world?

Imagine making one monthly payment and getting your network connection, together with media options on films, music, TV, games, news, and eBooks. You may get some services free, or others cross subsidised by others, but you potentially get your Home Entertainment under a ‘one shop’ federalised deal. Today the likes of Spotify are being rolled into network and Home Entertainment deals, so why not extend it to encompass all media? Today we see the likes of Nokia and others now realising that providing digital content services is maybe as important as selling the device. Enter the likes of Apple, Google, Samsung with their growing media content offers.

Home Entertainment propositions have huge appeal to advertisers who could also have both separate and collective deals. It will potentially attract new investment which in turn can either lower consumer subscriptions, or feed greater rewards to the creator. Many sports today benefit from Home Entertainment tie-ins and this route could raise the appeal of ebooks, reading as well as increase the revenue in the market.

Imagine a world in which consumers are encouraged to read, not by serving up free copies of the same stuff they don’t buy today, but by offering them digestible chunks of content that by themselves fit into their often time poor, multi-demand lifestyles. We don’t expect young children to be immersed in long textural works, so why do we expect adults who don’t read today and have shortening attention spans and time windows, to suddenly create 16 hours to read an eBook. We have written much on this subject, but the relevance to the potential subscription market is significant, as readers will consume short works faster and potentially more regularly than large ones. Also pricing short works today to sell through against the heavily discounted longer ones, is very difficult. Has anybody stood back and asked whether its wise to converted the physical book and merely just pour it into an ebook container?

If we look at how films and TV shows are now financed, produced, branded and even merchandised, we increasingly see cooperative ventures. These set out to maximise the investment and rights sold, not minimise them in a hope that they prove to be winners that may be exploited later. Amazon’s influence in making the BBC change its decision to cease production of the ‘Ripper Street’ series was a significant step and it is not alone in the shift of power that is happening in the Home Entertainment world. Harry Potter may be seen as an exception today, but can others now take a more holistic approach to rights and services and beg the questions as to whether subscription based models a more natural way to harness and maintain these new communities?

It is easy to envisage subscription services being a major driver of change to what is created, how it is developed, marketed, promoted, sold, paid for and consumed. However it is often harder to see an industry which is often slow to change and diverse in its structure making those changes. So are we to remain wedded to the digital base 1 or can we now move towards second or even envisage third base, or will we wake up one morning and find someone has done it to us?  

1 comment:

Michael W. Perry said...

My hunch is that there won't be any blended media services. People's taste in entertainment vary too much. Most don't have the time to use what a movie service and an ebook and a music service might offer.
There might, however, be serious demand for ebook reading services either linked to age, i.e. carefully vetted children's books and no ads, or genre, such as romance, scifi, or thriller. That'd spare readers the bother of wading through all sorts of books they dislike to find those they do.
Who knows? I worked in the early 1980s with one of the pioneering cellular companies. At the time no one thought a cell phone would become small enough to slip into a pocket. Most, it was assumed, were destined to be mobile, meaning installed in a car. Something similar could happen with ebooks. They could take off in some unexpected direction.