January 24, 2022

New BISG Study Shows 80% of Publishers Believe Digital Book Subscription is Inevitable But Responses Vary by Market Sector Inbox

Note: Below are new findings from a Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and more reasons, as we have been suggesting for several years, why the library world should have been discussing ebook subscription services and what they could mean for library users, collection development, budgets, etc. particularly in public libraries, before everyone else was talking about them. It’s not like they are a new idea. Both Oyster and Scribd were either in the planning stages or available for a couple of years.

In other words, be preemptive vs. reactive and prepared.

That said, it’s still not too late. The sky isn’t falling.

Those in leadership positions must get the ball rolling on the national, state, and local level.

While it’s good to see that the BISG study below was co-sponsored by the ALA they must do more to get the library community aware and talking about how ebook subscription services could effect the future of all types of libraries as far as books go. We also hope that the ALA’s new Center for the Future of Libraries will work to make sure the library community is kept ahead of the curve as new technologies and services arise.

By the way, will ALA provide highlights from the report to the library community? Will it be for sale to ALA members for a reduced price?

Finally, as we said last week, the future of these services is still unclear but they, as of today, are getting more and more attention (in the past week the press coverage has been massive and has rarely mentioned libraries) and this plays directly and indirectly into the public perception of libraries and their overall relevance in today’s world.

Key Findings From the BISG Report:

Digital Books and the New Subscription Economy points to almost unilateral agreement that digital subscription is already having an impact on publishing models and reports a wide range of responses. It analyzes the differing expectations and perspectives from trade, educational, and scholarly publishers, as well as those of other industry stakeholders including subscription service providers. It assesses the long-term impact of subscription models and how publishers and service providers anticipate they’ll adapt.

Len Vlahos, Executive Director of BISG, commented “Subscription models have the potential to disrupt the industry, and we’re very pleased to publish this study to provide an analysis of its implications, both positive and not, for everyone seeking greater understanding of this model and how to plan for it.”

Andrew Savikas, CEO of lead sponsor Safari, said “Safari is a success story for how publishers can use new business models to grow truly new markets. We are proud to have worked with BISG on this report to help others in the industry better understand both the challenges and opportunities in the range of subscription-style models out there, including Safari.”

As new subscription models emerge and dominate publishing news, BISG’s timely report offers extensive data and analysis to help answer the myriad questions about its potential impact on the various publishing models. The research is based on data collected from an extensive survey from a sample of almost 4,000 industry professionals, including publishers, libraries, retailers, aggregators, and other service providers. In addition, the study includes a broad review of current subscription models in publishing and other digital media industries, based on over 50 one-on-one interviews.

Digital Books and the New Subscription Economy delves into why specific models work for different sectors and how these models depend on specific audience needs and expectations. Key factors include:

  • Consumer preferences for access vs. ownership
  • Price sensitivity
  • A preference for breadth vs. depth of selection

The report reviews different market needs and how subscription models can meet them. For example, a professional reader looking for targeted information on a specific subject may want a subscription service that delivers a highly curated selection where price is less important. Casual readers who want a range of options in different subject areas will want a broader selection where lower prices eliminate purchase risk and encourage sampling. Consumers already accustomed to subscription for music, movies, or news and information will expect similar benefits from book subscription services.

  • Publishers’ responses reflect this range of needs, as the study describes in detail. It includes in-depth research and analysis that evaluates changing publishing models, the impact of subscription on discoverability, and concerns over whether subscription will suppress sales or expand audiences. The analysis supports top-line findings such as:
  • Scholarly publishers, while slower to adopt ebooks, are now beginning to offer more choices to libraries.
  • Professional publishers, with a tradition of direct-to-consumer marketing and early models of organizing information digitally, must remain ahead of workers’ changing needs and preferences.
  • Higher education publishers have long relied on rental models, which are really a version of subscription. They see Integrated Learning Systems as the future of their business.
  •  Trade publishers are careful to evaluate the results emerging from those publishers who have begun to use this model
  • Authors will similarly benefit from business models that can bring their works to new, paying readers but share concern about the lower revenue per customer typical of subscription models. Like readers, they may wish to preserve the richness of experience, depth of thinking, complexity, and value that a full-length work provides.

Read the Complete News Release, Learn How to Order the Full Report ($449)

See Also: Amazon Formally Launches Kindle Unlimited E-Book (and Audiobook) Subscription Service (July 18, 2014)

See Also: Oyster, a Spotify/Netflix-Like Service for E-Books Launches, Is the Library Community Preparing for These Types of Services? (September 5, 2013)

See Also: Harry Potter Titles Coming to Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and What This Should Mean For Libraries (May 10, 2012)


About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.