I’ve always had the highest regard for the Universal Law of Digital Content (the content is free, what you pay for is the packaging). Which in other words means that digital content that can be dismembered (the packaging can be destroyed) could never be monetized enough unless someone bothers to reassemble and repackage it with a brand new price.
For a minute, however, I had my doubts, and I asked myself (last July) if a Spotify approach might make more sense for ebooks as well. Since then a week hasn’t gone by that I haven’t received reports and requests from at least a few so-called “book Spotify” sites, new platforms for access to entire catalogues in return for the payment of a set monthly fee.
This surge of initiatives all centred on competing around the buzzword of the moment was already enough for me to conclude that no, this does not and will not work with books: the only area in which this would make sense is that of technical and scientific manuals in which nobody is really interested in the “book” itself, but in specific concepts in order to solve particular problems or learn more about specific topics.
This article appeared in the New Republic, but it helped to eliminate any lingering doubts and put me back on the straight and narrow path. The book, with a price to be paid for being packaged in a unit that cannot be dismembered without losing its meaning and usefulness, exists and will continue to exist. And the fact that it becomes an ebook will mean something very fundamental: more and more will be sold (with the effect of expanding the potential market with respect to paper books), at lower prices than the paper book, and at higher margins for those who publish it (authors and/or publishers).