Decoding the Subscription Economy
The industry is abuzz with talk of ebook subscriptions. Media reports regale the emerging subscription platforms as the "Netflix of books" and a boon for consumers, while industry pundits view the subscription model more cautiously, wary of the potential cannibalization of publishers' retail sales.
Though a well-trod conversation has emerged, actual insight on the worth of subscription models has eluded publishers. In hopes of beginning to fill this knowledge gap, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) conducted its latest study, Digital Books And The New Subscription Economy. The study presents findings on how publishers regard new subscription models, the utility of subscription across various publishing segments, and the advantages and disadvantages of subscription.Published in July, the study combines extensive background research, over 50 publisher interviews, and an online survey that reached publishers from trade, scholarly, professional, and higher education segments. Below Nadine Vasallo, project manager of research and information at BISG outlines the study's most pertinent findings and explores the trends found within different publishing segments.
What were some of the findings that jumped out after conducting the study?
The biggest thing was that pretty much unanimously, across every group we surveyed, publishers agreed that subscription will inevitably play a major role in their business over the next five years. They almost unanimously agreed that that would have a positive impact on their business as well. That was encouraging to see. There were of course some common points of concern in each segment.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages publishers perceive in the subscription model?
The most identified benefit was the ability to reach current customers in new ways or to reach new customers who aren't currently reading their books. Publishers identify subscription as "found money," particularly for backlist titles that aren't selling well. Publishers think that they will see revenue they otherwise wouldn't by putting those titles on a subscription service.
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Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.