Spotify for ebooks? Aren’t the publishers already making enough money?



Lady Gaga, originally uploaded by Jazmin Million.

I’ve heard people opine for a Spotify for ebooks. This isn’t as kooky as when they opine for Netflix or Blockbuster for physical books. The thing is… Spotify is pretty good for consumers, but sucks for creators. Well… it’s not all rosy as some people want to believe. (I really don’t get why so many librarians absolutely loathe the publishing industry, but give the music industry a pass.)
This week I saw this tweet:


To which I replied:


Let me expand on that. The idea of a streaming service for ebooks is not exactly new. This week Oyster receiver $3M in VC funding to make a “Netflix for ebooks” So the dream is getting close. What does it mean for libraries? I don’t know. If the platform is better than Overdrive or some of the other ebook things, I bet it could really catch on. Also, there’s the immediacy and cutting out the middle man, people like that.

If we have learned anything from music though, it’s that while the publishers might be crying poor – they’re the ones who are going to win on this deal, most likely at the expense of the artists. Will consumers care? If the popularity of Spotify and Pandora are anything to go on, probably not.

Spotify’s low royalty rates should be common knowledge by now. It’s definitely skewed toward major labels, and these companies tend to deal with labels directly (or digital distros). That makes sense, but that just means labels can take a huge cut, though most smaller labels are more equitable to their artists. The issue is really transparency. I’ve asked about this issue before, but I know it’s sort of like a sausage machine. My money goes in, music comes out, I’ll never know what happens in between.

The most notorious case of the royalty math might be Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” in 2009. After over 1 million spins, she reportedly received a royalty check of $167. True, that’s not the same as sales, but wow… that’s small change.

So who’s going to like Oyster? The The Big 6 most likely will once they get some big licensing deals. Smaller publishers might try it out. Consumers will love the convenience. Authors… sorry, but I bet you’re used to it. Musicians sure are.

2 thoughts on Spotify for ebooks? Aren’t the publishers already making enough money?

  1. Oh, I loathe the recording industry, too. I thought we all loathed them back in the Napster era and have only just now moved on to loathing the publishing industry?

    I really like what my hometown library has done with local music. It’s not a ton of money for the musicians, but it all goes to them directly, which beats the hell out of most set ups.

  2. If people could consume the written word as quickly as they could a song or an album, then a Spotify for eBooks would be plausible.

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