Subscription Ebooks? No Thanks

Came across an article today sharing some rumors from BEA (Book Expo America) about Google and their ebooks. One was that they were going to stop their ebook program, which I’d find unlikely, but the other was the possibility of a new ebook rental service. Basically, Netflix for your ereader. As a reader, I can see how this might have great appeal. Pay ten bucks or twenty or whatever the subscription might be, to download a specified number of books each month. A likely scenerio: you get your choice of books with a 30 day expiring DRM on it. If done right, I’d bet readers would flock to such a service. However, for the writer and publisher, all sorts of issues arise.

How do royalties work? Do pubs get a percentage of subscriptions? Do they get paid per download of a title? Honestly, I have no clue how this would work out, but it seems fraught with problems. It might be that this could work out well for pubs, but I don’t know. For authors? Not so much. When the idea of doing such a thing is to profit off of bulk sales, the individual is going to lose out. Royalty percentages of such a setup would definitely not be better than what they are now with pubs, and much more likely would be worse. As a writer I can’t see ever supporting such a system, at least not as I potentially envision it, and I would speak vocally against it if such time came and it threatened to provide even less compensation than we get now for books. I’m imagining a subscription royalty rate, less than normal sales, and if authors flock to such services, we lose. I’ll be curious to see what Google does with this, if they are indeed trying to move in that direction.

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