Amazon announced a new option to read eBooks today. Now for $10 a month you can have access to over 600,000 eBooks as well as audio books from Audible. It’s a bit like paying a library fee and not a totally new concept for Amazon, given the availability of some textbooks books for online rental.
If you think about it, it’s a logical extension of the expansion of cloud-based media subscription services like those for music and movies, as well as, although it is not quite so obvious, software subscription services like those being used now for Adobe products like Photoshop and Microsoft’s Office. I underscore the notion of cloud-based here, since these services can be made available across a range of devices (desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet) the subscriber owns and the service is cross-platform (Windows, Mac OS and in some cases Unix). Storage space on devices can now be more efficiently used with content no longer stored. I wonder at times if we understand we realize that we no longer own a copy of the book, CD, MP3 or movie. Not that we cannot still actually buy books, CDS, MP3′s and DVDs, but we are gradually being weaned from doing so.
For heavy readers like myself, Kindle books are a blessing. I simply own too many books in paper form and the challenge to finding shelf space for them is overwhelming. Some have been relegated to tall stacks on the floor in a corner somewhere. I no longer need search to find one of my books. It’s there on my iPad and searchable.
But what will be the unexpected consequences of the continuing shift to cloud-based subscription services on the economy of media production? Still to be solved or exploited is how we share what we are reading with each other. Book publishers will have much to negotiate, particularly since some authors may want to see them removed from the chain from author to deliver to readers.