Would A Netflix-Like Model Work For eBooks From Amazon?

Today Amazon announced a new all-you-can-stream offering to Amazon Prime members, which now gives those members that pay $79 a year for free two day shipping on all orders the chance to stream TV and movies for free.

The offer is kind of cool, but it raises questions. First, is the rise is eBook sales making Amazon less able to sell Amazon Prime memberships? After all, if you are buying more eBooks, than print, is it worth spending $79 a year for a more convenient shipping offer. (Maybe, if you use Amazon to buy more than books).

Secondly, while its nice to have streamable online movies, Amazon’s 5,000 title catalog is pretty meager compared to Netflix which boasts more than 100,000 titles. What would be appealing to Amazon users on the other hand, would be a Netflix service for eBooks. Perhaps you pay $10 a month (or $79 a year) and have access to a catalog of popular titles from publishers (similar to Netflix, content would likely grow over time). Perhaps you get two books at a time for as long as you like. Fast readers would be motivated to read a ton, and swap out their queque, while slow readers might keep eBooks around for a couple of weeks or months, like a Netflix DVD sitting on top of the TV.

While there are various eBook sharing sites around, having a fully fledged Amazon eBook rental system would change the playing field. It could be a great motivator for Amazon to sell more Kindles, and if publishers are paid well, a good motivation for Amazon to buy bulk copies of an eBook, the way that Netflix does with DVDs.

It might not actually hurt eBook sales, as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has often said that the Netflix user is different than a DVD buyer. Book buyers might still want to own their eBook (or print) titles for reference, but this kind of service could get nonreaders reading more. The subscription model is getting popular among media companies on the iPad.

Do you think this model would work?

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