Digital Directions: At Your Service
Like manna from heaven, e-books hold forth the promise that publishing will continue to be relevant in the digital age. They represent a truly monetizable digital delivery model with demonstrated value to consumers. The debate now is not whether or not e-books will generate revenue, but how much revenue, and to what degree it will be incremental or replacement.
The classic e-book model consists of:
1. Publisher executes what is essentially a conversion process to generate the e-book, which is, to varying degrees, a representation of a print product.
2. The e-book is placed in a commerce platform (such as Amazon's Kindle Store or Google's eBookstore).
3. Consumer downloads purchased e-book to mobile device.
This model—downloading media to a playback device—is directly analogous to Apple's iTunes, and quickly grasped by the marketplace. The familiarity of the model—along with Amazon's kick-start through its Kindle program—helped e-books gain traction in the marketplace.
Alongside all this frothy e-book excitement, strong interest exists among both publishers and consumers in a fundamentally different model: content delivery through subscription-based services.
The subscription model consists of:
1. Publisher prepares digital content from a collection of titles and/or other assets. Often these collections represent aggregate value as a resource for research.
2. Digital collections are then placed within an online delivery environment.
3. Consumer purchases a subscription, giving them access to a specified set of content for a specified time period, within an application interface to help search and use the material.
4. Consumer then accesses content via browser or mobile device.
Single Versus Subscription Purchases
There are a couple of fundamental differences between the e-book and subscription models. First, digital content in the e-book model is typically downloaded from a service to a device, then read offline. In the subscription model, however, content is delivered dynamically from a server—in real time—requiring readers to remain connected.