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Ebook Reader + Subscription Rental Model Poll

[poll id="150"]

I was honestly thinking about this last night, but rebjy spotted something that indicates maybe I’m not the only one who thinks it might be plausible. The idea would be for a publisher, say Penguin, to offer an ebook Reader + book bundle subscription rent to own model. You could run this so many different ways. Here are two:

1. The DSL model. In order to get high speed wireless internet access in your home, you often need a router. The cable modem folks charge you a fee for the wireless access and a fee for the router that you are “renting.” Publishers could do this as well. They would charge you a monthly access fee to their online catalog which would get you a set number of free books (maybe 2-3) with the remaining catalog available at a discount. Then they would charge you a fee for the device itself. $25? $35?

2. The Cell Phone model. In exchange for a two year agreement, the cell phone provider gives you a discount on the cell phone. Sometimes it is free and sometimes it is available at a reduced rate. Publishers could ask you to sign a two year agreement. In exchange, you would get a free or discounted eBook Reader and then for a monthly fee, access to a certain number of books.

I read somewhere (and I don’t have the link at the tip of my fingers) that for the cost of printing, shipping and delivering the print version of the NYT, the Times could give a Kindle away to every subscriber. What do you think?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

21 Comments

  1. rebyj
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 10:41:26

    I think it’s something that should be considered. There is a big market of readers out there who DO spend money on books but the 300-350 dollar price of an e-reader device is just not in reach.
    Harlequin would be a good company to jump on this concept.
    With all their lines, most of us buy a few of their books each month.

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  2. Jane
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 10:45:07

    @rebyj Harlequin is a great idea. I think I would do it. Let’s say after two years of monthly payments, you would own the device. I might even give away gift subscriptions. Obviously you could use the device with other publishers simply by buying your own books.

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  3. Jessica G.
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 10:47:54

    I’m not voting because I already have a Reader. I was OK splurging on it :)

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  4. Silver James
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:14:06

    This would likely be the only way I would acquire an ebook reader at the moment. Upfront cost and differences in format are two concerns keeping me on the fence. I would at least consider a bundled package like this.

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  5. roslynholcomb
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:21:10

    I would be interested, as long as I could buy books from other publishers. My tastes are too eclectic to stick with just one. As for Harlequin, other than their Kimani line I rarely bother, but this might get me to buy more of their books as well.

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  6. Jessica D
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:28:00

    It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think it would appeal to me to be–or at least to feel–tied into one publisher’s output. Something more like a Netflix, clearinghouse model, though, I would consider.

    (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an iPod Touch ebook reader.)

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  7. Jane
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:30:59

    @Jessica D: I don’t envision that you would be tied to just one publisher. You’d have to use the existing devices on the market and those are open to other bookstores. The publisher would “make money” through the subscription price.

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  8. Joy
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:42:07

    This is exactly like DVR service thru my cable company. You pay a fee for the DVR enabled box and a fee for the service. I signed up for it because I didn’t want to commit to buying a Tivo. After all this time, I could have paid for the Tivo twice over – but try not to think about it….and still don’t have a Tivo

    Long way for me to say – it seems like a good model for those that don’t want to shell out the upfront device costs. I would have considered it before buying my Sony.

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  9. MaryK
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 11:42:36

    #1 sounds fantastic. Not sure about #2 – what would the agreement be for? I wouldn’t want to be tied to one publisher/store.

    It’d kill me, but I’d have to pass if DRM was involved. I do a lot of rereading of books I bought years ago so if I buy ebooks I have to be sure I can reread them 10 years from now.

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  10. Lucy
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 12:05:23

    I didn’t vote in the poll because I already have a Kindle. I would be interested in a subscription service like Audible or Netflix but for ebooks. I wouldn’t mind paying a fee each month for a certain number of credits or books.

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  11. Sandi M
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 12:11:00

    I’m not really sure about rent to own but I would love to be able to rent one for occasional travel. My husband complains that I take more books than I do clothes. It’s a good thing we drive instead of fly. then add movie type rental prices for some e-books and I’d be set to go.

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  12. Jules Jones
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 12:20:44

    I personally wouldn’t even if I didn’t already have a CyBook, but I can see this being an attractive option for some people.

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  13. Kalen Hughes
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 13:01:47

    I like option # 2, and I like the idea of being able to “rent” eBooks (like checking them out of the library, but with a MUCH larger selection). I’d totally pay for that kind of subscription.

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  14. Ann Bruce
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 13:29:19

    My commitment-phobic self cringes at the thought of being tied to one publisher and my fiscally conservative self detests the words “rent to own.”

    Renting or subscribing books? My library already offers this service for $12 per year–and I have access to a massive selection, including dead tree books, electronic books, DVDs, CDs, and numerous online research databases.

    And with rent to own, the mark consumer ends up paying for the item several times over.

    But I’m probably an extreme example as I don’t have a cell phone contract and don’t believe in financing (I consider rent-to-own as a form of financing) items that depreciate in value.

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  15. Emmy
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 14:07:57

    I’m surprised that Amazon hasn’t gone with a more traditional marketing scheme…give the razor away for practically nothing and charge an arm and a leg for the blades. The ebook market is perplexing. They’re making the cost of a ebook reader almost prohibitively high, locking them to very few formats, then charging upwards of print prices for a pile of pixels.

    I don’t get it. At all.

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  16. AndreaS
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 16:37:14

    I really like this idea, mostly because I’m still on the fence about the readers. I mostly think it would be a wonderful thing, but I’m worried about spending the money and not using it as much. Or prefering print books but having already bought the thing.

    So I would gladly spend $25+ dollars to rent one for a month and see if I enjoy it. Then I’d likely own quickly, but I would relish the ability to try it out before I own it.

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  17. Jinni
    Feb 05, 2009 @ 18:15:44

    I’d like to borrow one like I borrow library books. As a matter of fact, I’d buy one if I could just borrow the books. There are plenty of books that I read (or skim through depending on how bad they are) that I borrow because I don’t want to commit 6 or 26 dollars to something I may not enjoy. I don’t want to pay for a bunch of electronic files I can’t do anything with.

    When I break down and buy books that turn out to be awful – at least I can give them to someone else who’ll be interested in them, donate them, or swap them at paperbackswap for something I want.

    I think a ‘borrow’ or at least low cost model for books (and the reader) would expose us to more authors. I buy guaranteed good reads (based on an author’s past books), and borrow ‘unknown’ authors from the library. I’d pay a small fee to download/borrow those books. It would certainly save a lot of gas and overdue fines!

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  18. Cathy
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 12:24:12

    I’d be interested in a rent system, only because it would be a great way to try out the readers first. I haven’t found anywhere near me that will let me actually hold a Kindle or Sony, so I’m hesitant to buy before I can try.

    I also LOVE the idea of Neflix for e-books (Netboox?) I would happily sign up for something like that.

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  19. TerryS
    Feb 06, 2009 @ 12:49:34

    Seems like a good idea up front for someone brand new to ebooks.

    Personally, I would be more inclined to go with it if the reader were able to read the 1000+ ebooks I already own in the “ereader” format without me having to jump through hoops to convert them to another format. Until that happens with any ereader, I’m more likely to pass.

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  20. Ingrid
    Mar 02, 2009 @ 11:00:18

    I say, we buy the ereader for full price, but get to “rent” the books and content for a small monthly fee…and the content would be anything and everything possible.

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  21. shannon s
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:06:42

    I think somebody should come up with something like Netflix for E-books I have been all over the internet looking for a website where you can pay a monthly fee to download books. It would be great I would sign up!!!

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