Netflix For Books


More and more we have come to expect our entertainment to be a steady stream, ready for us at a minute’s notice. Netflix gives us endless choices each time for television and film, we just turn on Rdio for our stream of music. Now e-books are joining their more popular entertainment platforms as subscription models begin to pop out of the woodwork. But whether we look at newcomers Oyster and Scribd or the mammoths of the internet such as Amazon and Google, they have one problem in common. They need subscribers to read less in order to make money. And this is despite the growing number of non-readers according to a Pew Research Center survey.

The Netflix for Books Formula

Subscription based entertainment has been on the rise so it’s no surprise that e-books should be going the way of movies and music. But e-books have moved into payment models that are different from Netflix in one substantial way. Instead of a set license fee, they pay for each time a book gets read. So when the move was made to subscription based payments to authors based on payment each time a “fair portion” of a book was read, they made a discovery. They found out that certain genres such as romance have voracious readers. In fact they read so many books it was too costly for the e-book company. They need subscribers to read less in order to make it profitable.

Finding the Solution

With romance readers plowing through the catalog at break-net speed, the decision was made to cut back on the number of romance titles they would offer. More non-fiction and other types of fiction were added and romances were rotated in and out of the catalog. In fact, this is the same practice Netflix uses to control their offerings. Scribd, which has already implemented this plan, says they are simply “balancing the selection for some genres such as romance to get the popular dynamics just right,” but the reasons are obvious. Those darn romance fans are putting them out of business!

Pay Per Page at Amazon

Alongside Scribd’s changes, Amazon has announced they will be paying writers based on the number of pages read, not by the number of times a title is downloaded. So do we as readers do more to support our favorite authors? Do writers change their approach to storytelling to make them more of a “page-turner” at the start? Once again technology, commerce and art clash and the result is yet to be seen.