eBooks in the Cloud – Own or Just Renting?

Booki.sh have just announced they’ll be launching an ebook store in Australia, where the books are not downloaded but streamed from the cloud.

With the implication that we’re only renting/licensing our purchases, this news has caused quite a bit of a stir with some people denouncing it as, the worst thing to happen to publishing. Of course, some people would say that DRM has already killed off any possibility of actually owning our ebooks, including Booki.sh themselves.

This “ebooks-in-the-cloud” scenario isn’t new. I’ve been mulling it over for a while and my conclusion is that it’s not such a bad idea – but only if the book industry change the way we pay for them.

If all our books are stored in the cloud – meaning that we can’t download them to external storage – then we really are only renting them. I don’t find this such a big deal because if I actually wanted to own a book, I’d probably go out and buy a paper version anyway (wow, did I just say that).

(Ok, so that’s no completely true, but most of the ebooks I do buy are DRM-free professional books, from O’Reilly, A Book Apart, etc., so I do actually own them.)

It’s only recently that I’ve come to realise (or is that admitted to myself) that I mostly only read books (novels) once and if I ever read them again, it’s likely years after the first time, so I don’t mind having one-off/temporary access to them. But, if these cloud books imply that we’re only renting them, then I’d expect the price to be reflected in that.

The business model for ‘ebook Rental’ could be something similar to what we have with DVD rentals, where you can get pay-per-view movies streamed over the internet for anything from 25% – 50% of the purchase price. If I take a monthly subscription package then I could get them even cheaper.

So publishers, are you going to let me rent my ebooks – will you let me read Stieg Larsson for $2.00?

…no, I didn’t think so.

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4 thoughts on “eBooks in the Cloud – Own or Just Renting?”

  1. I enjoyed and agreed with the article. I suspected a few would attempt to go into this form of buisiness. The other concern of “renting” from the cloud, if the cloud was moved or the individual’s access to the cloud is lost. Can these rented books be downloaded to read via non-internet connectivity?

  2. I have no problem with this model of purchasing books. Yes I don’t control the book to the same degree as if I buy the book from Amazon.com, but convenient access to books via a browser has its advantages as well.

    Ultimately it is going to come down to price and the way I like to read books and the functionality provided by the respective reading system.

    You wrote “ebooks-in-the-could”

  3. Thanks for the spell check elmonica. It might have been worse though, I could have written, “ebooks-in-the-cud” :)

    I don’t have a problem with this approach either, but I do feel that the price needs to reflect the model better. The next year or three is going to be full of experimentation and should be quite interesting to the different payment methods tnat will evolve.

  4. I gotta think there’s a lot of incremental revenue that can be extracted through a ebook rental model. Much like movies, books can move from hard-bound (in theater) to paperback (DVD rental) to rental (streaming) with price reductions at each stage.

    Personally, I’m using my local library a lot more now that I can search titles online, place holds, and get renewal reminders. But popular books still have a long wait… What percent of people would be willing to pay $1or $2 for a read? I’d venture to say quite a lot. And since there is almost no costs associated with digital form, it’s almost pure profit for the retailer and publisher to share. (I read that it cost Netflix 5 cents to stream a movie versus $1 to send out a disk.).

    There’s a market for ebook rentals, be it a per-read rental fee or a subscription (Netflix) model.

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