Ebook Subscription Models: the BISG View

Despite Simon & Schuster’s have-a-go attitude, however, American publishers, in general, are cautious about ebook subscription models.  BISG [the US-based Book Industry Studies Group] hosted its annual conference (in conjunction with BookExpo America) at the end of May.  Its special focus was on ‘Digital Books and the New Subscription Economy’.  This is also the basis of some new BISG research on the subject, which was published on 16th June. 

Ted Hill of THA Consulting presented some of the highlights from the research.  He said that many publishers were concerned about the possible cannibalisation of other high-value markets that this business model might allow.  Its appeal for customers also had to be proven.  (These two findings would appear to be somewhat contradictory, but of course, the ebook market is still fluid, especially when it comes to business models.) 

However, other research carried out by Nielsen BookScan is more encouraging.  This was presented by Jonathan Stolper, Senior Vice President of Client Services at Nielsen.  He said that, like early adopters of other new technologies and business models, book subscribers are usually young, male and technically savvy.  He allayed publishers’ fears by saying that the Nielsen research demonstrated that the (mere) 5% of book buyers who use subscription services not only continue to spend money on books but on average spend £45 more annually than non-subscribers.  He also forecast that the subscription market will grow hugely over the next year or two.