Amazon’s Reading Rental Service – Weighing the Pro’s and Con’s

Regardless of whether you feel that the publishing industry is headed down the wrong path or embracing innovation to keep up with the future, this is one of the most interesting times to be involved in any fashion. Much like the technology, book publishing is changing all the time and is definitely going to continue to be in a turbulent state. What does Amazon’s reader rental service mean for authors? What does Amazon’s reader rental service mean for publishers?
It has been announced that Amazon has been discussing options with publishers about introducing a rental service that would work like Netflix. Readers would be able to pay a membership fee, rumors have it that it would cost $79 annually, and they could choose from a plethora of options to rent out for a period of time. While the details on the service have not been divulged, the idea is clever on Amazon’s part. Forrester Research believes that eBook sales will reach $3 billion by 2015, so the question becomes where does all that money go if it is a part of a rental service of sorts?
The likely direction will be similar what Netflix has with companies like Starz, where they pay for their content annually. Starz pays for the content itself, and Netflix pays Starz to show their content. If they follow the Netflix model, then it can be assumed that Amazon will pay the publishers directly for contracts that will be renegotiated every few years to continue the relationship. It can then be assumed that the publisher will distribute funds out amongst the authors included in the content sent to Amazon. But how do publishers decide what to pay their authors in this case?
Will it be based on the amounts of rentals? Would they pay big authors George R.R. Martin and Nora Roberts an exorbitant amount and give their smaller authors a mere sampling of the pie? Or do they simply pay out a flat rate to each author for being a part of the service? The likelihood is going to be that it will be negotiated on an author by author basis with the publisher, leaving the smaller writers with smaller checks still. However there is one reason and one reason alone why Amazon’s Netflix for books service could be the best thing for authors who haven’t quite broken into the mainstream yet.
If you have Netflix, you have undoubtedly seen a poster or image that intrigued you that you would have never seen otherwise. How many people watched Mystery Team simply because Community’s Donald Glover was front and center on the poster? This will give readers a chance to impulsively look through their library of sorts, and before you know it, Amazon will help undiscovered authors that hadn’t sold many books be given a chance to be seen by millions. Then, if you did your job as an author, the reader will want to read more by you. So what do you think they’ll do when you come to visit for a book signing for your latest work?
While it could be easy to see the negative effects of Amazon’s digital world of publishing, I believe that authors need to realize that the industry is headed for a new publishing model, it’s inevitable. Now it is time to embrace these new chances to gain exposure through different outlets. Having a great concept and well constructed prose will give readers the choice to read your book from Amazon’s service over others.
Let’s perform a flashback to 2004. There was this odd British made movie coming out in a few months and apparently they made a well received television show for a few years. I was on the fence with the movie, it looked quirky, but perhaps too much so. To make a decision, I used Netflix to rent and watch the first disc of the television show called Spaced. Now, anytime the names Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, or Edgar Wright comes up with films like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Paul, Star Trek, etc. I am there opening night, in the theater, and I have nearly their entire collection of films on DVD or Blu-Ray, even Mission: Impossible III. Because the DVD’s for their small passion project were on Netflix, I became a part of a fan base that dedicatedly follows these three and pays plenty of money to do so.
Make no mistake, there are new challenges to be met with this new swerve in technology with the industry, the question becomes how will you use it to build up the cult of your customer and readers?


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