Amazon moves to a subscription model

2014-07-29 00:00

AMAZON.com Inc launched a $9,99 (R104,96) per-month subscription service recently that lets customers read as much as they choose from its library of more than 600 000 digital books.

Subscribers to the Kindle Unlimited service can read e-books, including The Hunger Games and Life of Pi, on Amazon’s Kindle e-reader or any device with a Kindle app. Subscribers also have access to thousands of audio books.

The launch of Kindle Unlimited comes as Amazon remains mired in a months-long contract dispute with publisher Hachette Book Group, owned by France’s Lagardere, over how to price e-books.

Amazon is also in talks about digital book pricing with Simon & Schuster.

The company’s move to offer the Kindle Unlimited service reflects consumers’ growing preference towards subscription-based models for consuming digital media, such as Netflix Inc for movies and television shows, and Spotify for music. The new Amazon service will compete with others in the market, including Oyster, which charges $9,95 per month for unlimited access to more than 500 000 titles. In an interview, Oyster’s co-founder Eric Stromberg said he was not surprised by Amazon’s move, adding that his company’s partnership with major publishers gave Oyster a higher quality catalogue. “They’ve tried to pivot from transaction to subscription-based in other forms of media — music, movies, children’s books — and had limited success,” Stromberg said of Amazon.

“Through our partnerships with Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster, two of the largest publishers in the world, we’re able to deliver to our audience a vast and deep catalogue of the best books in the world.”

Amazon, which drove the growth of e-books after launching the Kindle in 2007, has branched out into other forms of digital content.

It offers streaming video and music for members of its Prime programme and is developing original content. Unlike its other streaming services, Amazon does not require Kindle Unlimited users to be Prime members.

The combative negotiations between Amazon and Hachette have set the publishing world on edge.

Earlier this year, Amazon delayed delivery of some Hachette titles, including sought-after print versions and, at one point, it removed a pre-order option for The Silkworm, by J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith. Hachette authors James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell and Stephen Colbert have criticised Amazon for its tactics. Amazon said its goal is to maintain low prices and a high level of service for its customers. — Reuters

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