Perspectives of a Writer and Musician

Issues related to writing, publishing and playing jazz music: One man's muse.
by Al Stevens

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Location: Florida, United States

Thursday, April 17, 2014

E-book Subscriptions

In December of 2012 I posted my predictions for the future of e-book distribution in a blog article titled It's Not Your Father's Library. Reading it a year and a half later I think the predictions are still sound with one exception:

I believe that e-books will be purchased via subscriptions.

Subscriptions are popular now for many desktop applications. Adobe, Microsoft, and others sell their products that way now. You buy a subscription and you get the application and its upgrades for the duration of the plan.

E-Book Subscriptions

Instead of buying specific books as you do now, you'll pay an annual (or monthly, quarterly, etc.) fee and read books from the cloud library the way my 2012 article suggests.

Perhaps a subscription would be priced based on the number of books, words, or some other measure which allows less prolific readers to sign up for less money.


The distributor pays authors based on the number of subscribers who read the author's books. All books are priced the same, depending on, perhaps, genre (the more popular fiction genres cost more; as do the more complex technical ones, etc.), the length of the book, and perhaps the book's ranking against competing books, although I'm not sure of that last one.


A reader may return only books that the reader has not finished reading. Remember, your device downloads a page, scene, or chapter at a time depending on the cloud implementation, so the server knows what you've downloaded and assumes you've read whatever you got. If you read the whole book, you can't return it, and the author gets paid.


A reader may post a review on the distributor's site only for books that you have completed reading. This approach addresses the problems of drive-by, retaliatory, and paid-for reviews that plague some authors and allow others to game the system.


This article is only the germ of an idea with a loosely assembled framework. There would be, of course, kinks to work out, exceptions to be considered, and so on. Bandwidth is, as always, a concern. I believe, however, that the e-book industry will evolve in this direction.