Amazon is mulling a Netflix-like subscription plan for e-books, in which customers would play a flat fee for unlimited access to a range of titles, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. Details of the plan remain vague – it is "unclear how much traction the proposal has," sources told the Journal – and Amazon has thus far refused to make any public comments about the purported rental platform.
Still, the report has ginned up a good deal of buzz, and for good reason: Amazon, which already revolutionized the e-book business with its Kindle e-reader, could be close to shaking up the publishing industry all over again. A subscription platform would allow voracious readers to consume more content, at a higher speed, and a subscription platform would also allow publishers to showcase a wider swath of their back catalog.
Not that all publishers are thrilled with the subscription rumors. According to the Journal, some houses worry that the initiative would devalue books, and hurt relationships with traditional booksellers. Are their fears validated? Not necessarily, Stephen Shankland argues over at CNET.
It's "better for the publishers to get on board with a subscription offer," he writes. "The pride of ownership is already much reduced with e-books – pulling out the Kindle just doesn't compare with an imposing, well-stocked bookshelf when it comes to showing off your erudition when the dinner party guests arrive. Books are becoming an entertainment service, and publishers' catalogs are becoming live assets, not inventory to be shifted out of the warehouse."
Interestingly, the subscription platform could initially be rolled out as part of Amazon Prime, a paid premium membership plan which already includes streaming video. Adding free downloadable e-books only makes sense, writes Ian Paul of PC World.
"Amazon Prime members are more likely to shop from the online retailer since they want to recoup their $79 annual fee in free shipping," Paul writes. "So Prime add-ons such as free books and free, unlimited video streaming could help convince more people to sign-up for Prime."
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