Joe Wikert of Publishing 2020 talks about the potential for having subscription-based ebook vending models, with page-view based economics.
“Could you imagine a model where you pay $X/month for access to an unlimited number of books? It’s never going to happen in the print world but I think this could be the killer app for the Kindle, a world where manufacturing and distribution costs are zero. Access to every single book in the entire Kindle library could be yours for a monthly fee. Assuming the monthly fee is reasonable this could be the model that really kick-starts the e-book industry.
“How would publishers and authors get paid in this model? One option is to go by pageviews. Although the capability doesn’t exist in Kindle 1.0, there’s no reason version 2.0 couldn’t be built to track pageviews of every book downloaded and read. At the end of the month the device could upload the customer’s viewing history back to Amazon so that the monthly fee could be split among the publishers whose products were downloaded and read. Publishers would then pay authors their contractual share based on that same data.”
As Wikert describes this scenario, it evokes recollection of the voluntary collective licensing scheme Jeffrey Toobin wrote about in his New Yorker article, Google’s Moon Shot, as a possible direction for a settlement between Google and the AAP, with the additional element described here of the authors’ share being accounted for through contractual revenue sharing (for rights-determined content). One can imagine scenarios where this becomes a dominant licensing model for electronic access. Clearly it could apply equally well to both Amazon and Google, or for that matter any enterprise that controlled access to large or otherwise sufficiently viable digital text collections.