How Ebook Subscriptions Evolved in 2015
Although 2015 was a big year for ebook subscription, with more publishers participating in subscription services like Oyster, Scribd, and Entitle than ever before, the year also marked a significant stumbling block for this market. Both Oyster and Entitle shuttered their doors in 2015, leaving Scribd and Kindle Unlimited as the leading ebook and audiobook subscription services in the U.S. Despite these closures, new, hybrid subscription services have emerged, like Disney’s DisneyLife, which features Disney ebooks alongside Disney movies and games. A similar multimedia subscription platform called Playster launched in the U.S. this year, promising greater ebook discovery opportunities for book titles featured alongside consumers’ favorite TV shows, movies, and video games. The many and varied developments in ebook subscription in 2015 indicate that this market is still evolving and will continue to take shape in the coming years. Following are some of the highs and lows of ebook subscription in 2015.
- Macmillan Tests Ebook Subscriptions - Macmillan became the third Big 5 publishers to sign onto ebook subscription services Oyster and Scribd in January of 2015, joining Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins.
- Making Paid Content Streaming Attractive to Readers - One of the greatest fears publishers have in regards to ebook subscription is that subscription will cannibalize the value of ebooks the way Spotify has for music. Blogger Joe Wikert argues that the issue isn’t that free subscription services should go away, but that paid subscriptions offer readers something more compelling.
- Why Oyster’s Ebook Store Weakens Ebook Subscription Models - Before it’s demise, Oyster opened an ebook store to supposedly bolster its subscription service. This allowed the platform to add titles from holdouts Penguin Random House and Hachette. In a surprisingly prescient post, Bookmate founder Simon Dunlop argues that this move could lead to Oyster’s downfall.
- One Ebook Subscription Service to Rule Them All? - 24symbols is an international ebook subscription service working to differentiate itself in a crowded market. Here founder Justo Hidalgo shares how, through new partnerships with publishers and mobile carriers, the startup will become one of the leading ebook services in the world.
- Why Oyster Failed - Dunlop followed up his earlier post with a well-deserved “I told you so,” in regards to Oyster’s closure. In this post he explains why Oyster folded and what the future may hold for ebook subscriptions.
- 5 Things We Learned from the Demise of Oyster Books - Wikert believes subscription models can work in the book industry, but admits that the Oyster experiment was doomed for failure. Here are three lessons Wikert takes away from Oyster’s run.
- Subscription Services Strike Back - Despite doubts of the sustainability of subscription models, two companies launched hybrid ebook subscriptions services in October. Disney and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt created platforms that offer books, as well as videos and games to subcribers, perhaps ushering in a new era of media subscription.
- German Publisher Bastei Lübbe to Launch International Subscription Platform - Following on the heels of Disney and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s launches, German publisher Bastei Lübbe announced its new ebook subscription service, Oolipo. The press release reported that Oolip will differentiate its subscription service by creating short, serialized content that is obtimized for mobile reading. Much of the services content will be exclusive to the platform, the press release reports. Oolipo will soft launch in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in April of 2016.
- Can Playster Revive Ebook Subscription - In an interview with Book Business, Playster CEO Philip Keezer explains what differentiates the Playster subscription model and why it won’t be going the way of Oyster any time soon.
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.