I’m a massive technology geek. I’m always salivating at the capabilities of ‘the latest thing’, the latest of course being the gorgeous new iPhone 5. Yes, I’m a tech-geek. Get used to it.
Salivating aside, I’m actually really interested in the current movements in digital content, and have decided to focus on said topic every now and then on the blog. One of the first things I want to look at is the rise of streaming media, what it means for physical content, and the implications on the book industry. Will we see a Spotify for Books any time soon?
The advantages of streaming
I’ve been using Spotify for the best part of a year now. I pay £9.99 for a Premium account, which enables me to listen to music on the go either through 3G, or offline playlists which I’ve downloaded before heading out. Being a big fan of locally/physically owned content, like every good materialist is, I found it hard to adapt to initially, and backed out once or twice, before truly embracing it.
The result, a year on?
Spotify, or any music streaming service for that matter, severs the necessity to ever buy an album again. And yet, I think I’ve bought more music since joining Spotify than I did beforehand.
The key to Spotify is perception. I don’t think viewing it as a ‘directory’ to dip in and out of helps, and was probably part of my early problems with the service. Instead, imagine you have a library of over 15 million songs. That’s what Spotify is.
I know some people have issues with the reported royalties, but look at it this way: I’ve discovered at least one-hundred new bands I’d consider seeing live via Spotify. Bands I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, and therefore wouldn’t have bought a ticket to their shows. Therefore, in the long term, the hit the bands and artists take on royalties is surely worth it, right?
Furthermore, one single cent through a streaming service is better than absolutely nothing via piracy. And, in time, the royalties will rise to reflect the growth of the company.
There will always be two sides to the argument, but I urge you to drop those preconceptions and support an innovative movement. Spotify, Rdio, and the like, are doing great things to change the way the music industry thinks, which can only be a positive thing.
Spotify for books?
My obsession with Spotify got me thinking about whether a ‘Spotify for Books’ service could work. We are moving towards a streaming subscription future, that’s for sure. Sky and iPlayer for TV; Netflix and Lovefilm for movies; and of course, Spotify/Rdio for music. Surely books are next in line?
Well, it’s not quite as simple as that. Sure, I’m confident plenty of us readers would sign up to a service where we could ‘stream’ an unlimited amount of books for, let’s say, £9.99 per month. That would be perfect, for the reader. Publishing would take a brave new turn.
However, it wouldn’t be quite as simple for the author. Us authors don’t do live gigs or tours, so we wouldn’t have that to fall back on. Instead, we’d have to come up with our own irresistible alternatives.
How the service could work for authors
For example, say you put your book on this service. Someone reads it, streams it to their phone; that’s cool. Then what? They could just stream the rest of your books. Add them to a ‘playlist’, and that would be that. No ‘sales’, as such, but a reader.
They could then seamlessly share your work with a friend, via Facebook, or email. Their friend reads it, likes it, and adds your stuff to their playlist. But still, no ‘sales’ in a traditional sense.
How to counter this? You could offer a limited edition physical copy of your book as an incentive for the reader. Or an exclusive, signed hardcover pre-release of your next book, complete with making-of videos and live Q&As. All this could work seamlessly through the aforementioned ‘Spotify for Books’ service. The options are endless, and there are real opportunities for creativity.
Of course, the logistics of such a service would be a different matter, and publishers would probably have first dibs on shaping the landscape. But we’re already seeing services like Wattpad gradually gaining momentum. And, as the years pass, we’ll see more content, and more innovation. Give it a few years, and we’ll probably see something that almost uncannily represents a Spotify for Books.
A word on physical media: I wrote a piece a few months back on the ‘death’ of physical content, but I don’t believe this will happen any time soon. There will always be a demand for luxury products. As streaming media and subscription services truly take hold, I think physical media has to, and most certainly will, improve, to keep itself relevant.
And, let’s face it: we’ll never get tired of sniffing new books, right?
What does the future hold for books? Can you see a ‘Spotify for Books’ streaming service truly taking the lead in publishing, or something else?
Image courtesy of Blixt A. via Flickr
A very interesting view of the future. A problem on the incentive aspect for the non-traditionally published, however – no physical books to give away. Other incentives could be invented to compensate – I’ll leave it up to your fertile imagination to create some possibilites.
The biggest problem I forsee for the electronic author is still that of piracy. There are many, many unscrupulous outlets available for downloading hundreds of books at once for the princely sum of $5. How to combat that? Would the Paper-Spotify be proof against this?
Food for thought.
Cheers for the comment Andrew.
I agree with the incentive for the non-traditionally published author, however I would argue that this makes the physical product even more desirable. For example, say you have a book on this streaming service, and do a limited print run of, I dunno, 500 books through Lulu, or whatever. It creates demand, and makes the reader feel ‘special’.
I agree on the piracy front, however I’m kind of open regarding the piracy of books. I don’t pirate myself, although I used to regularly download music illegally. I probably discovered the bulk of the bands that eventually went on to craft my music tastes illegally, so it’s weird really.
The thing Spotify gets right, for me, is that it’s actually more convenient than piracy. It’s easier to load up Spotify and click on a track than it is to mess around with .torrent files, seeders, .RAR files, and the rest.
Convenience is the thing to fight piracy. Spotify is proving that. It’ll be interesting to see where the publishing industry takes things on this front.
Thinking I would like this. I find it just about impossible to read a book once I’ve read it once… On the other hand I do love lending my old books away and then completely forgetting who I gave them to. Piracy is an issue, but what is the pricing??? If the pricing is right for the consumer then maybe just maybe it will work against piracy and for the author.