Here’s why this could mean a lot to any business, writers and publishers included. We’re going to take a leap of faith here and assume that what Amazon is offering goes beyond the usual Project Gutenberg titles that every e-book reader and service has made available for free, since they will need to do so to attract subscribers to their service.
1. Google Books Is Not Enough
Google Books is currently the most thorough repository of books on the Internet. Since it only offers a free preview of a book, many students and others only use the portions of content that are available on the free preview in their research. If the titles on Amazon’s streaming book service are at all similar to the titles on Google Books, 100 percent of the publication would be available to Amazon Prime members.
2. Businesses Can Advertise to Relevant Readers
If Amazon succeeds in negotiating such a service with publishers and authors, which is still a big “if” at this point, there is a huge opportunity for them to target readers of specific titles for products with advertisements. As long as the ads were unobtrusive to the reading process, this could represent an excellent targeting opportunity for businesses and a potential additional revenue stream for Amazon.
3. Authors and Publishers Enjoy Immediate Payment
Metrics will be instantly available as to who streamed what book. This allows both authors and publishers to capitalize on work that may have sat on a shelf unnoticed in the past, either online or off. This is a model that has worked well with Apple’s iPad, which Amazon is rumoured to be basing its pricing models on.
4. Books Open Up to Wider Market
To obtain e-books from Amazon right now, you must go to Amazon’s website, search for what you want, and download it. If Amazon’s purported service does it right, you’ll be able to tap an app on your smartphone or their forthcoming tablet and stream a book directly to your device. This huge simplification of the process will mean that everyone with access to a smartphone now has access to books, which could easily help Amazon tap into the larger global market for e-books.
While many libraries are offering ePub versions of books that can be checked out online, this still requires the extra steps of having a library membership for that particular library and being familiar with their checkout methods. While this may seem simple to the tech-savvy among us, nobody can argue that a tap-and-select app is a more efficient and desirable model.
5. Streaming Model May Bring Down Price Points
One of the most common complaints about e-books is that they cost just as much as or marginally less than their printed counterparts, in spite of the hugely decreased cost of production. This is something that publishers have been trying to protect against.
Amazon could get around publisher trepidation by offering books for rent by the day, week, or month, and sharing the revenue with the authors and publishers. While rights for the content would have to be negotiated separately, this new method of generating revenue from older content could only be enticing for most publishers and authors.
6. Improves the Quality of Rural and Third-World Education
While many rural and third-world residents have access to the Internet, they do not have access to books, except through the inferior searches available to them on Google Books. Right now a child growing up in the country does not have the same access to source material that a child growing up in the city does. A service like Amazon book streaming could drastically improve the quality of any education system by making more books available. Amazon would probably have to negotiate separately with boards of education and governments for a less expensive pricing model, but in it would be another source of added revenue for them if managed properly. A better quality of education has an obvious long-term payoff for rural businesses and developing world economies in a more knowledgeable and educated workforce.
Many potential downsides could come with such a service as well. The most obvious one to me as a writer is the potential for a publisher to earn an additional source of revenue without paying you–if you have signed a contract that signs away rights for e-books. It could be argued that if such a service were to be introduced post-contract, publishers would have to go back to the table with their offers and hammer out a new deal.
Such a streaming service is absolutely dependent on Amazon coming to proper terms with publishers, and that element could kill a deal before it gets off the ground. However, it is still exciting to contemplate what this service could mean to both business and education.
Angela West dreams of opening a Fallout-themed pub featuring wait staff with Pip-Boys. She’s written for big insurance companies, small wildlife control businesses, gourmet food chains, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @angelawest.