All-you-can-eat push grows in e-books, magazines

  • N.Madhavan, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 01, 2015 19:28 IST

Last week, Magzter, the digital magazine store that offers various print magazines for those who want to read them on tablets or mobiles, launched a new subscription model that offers unlimited access to more than 2,000 magazines – at Rs 499 a month.

Such a service sounds revolutionary but is not without its catches in the long run.

Magzter is taking to the next level an app-based digital content revolution and is only following the footsteps of Amazon and others in the e-book space. After all, in the world of tablets and mobiles, a page is a page, be it from a website, book or a magazine.

Amazon last year launched Kindle Unlimited, an all-you-can-read service for e-books at $10 (about Rs 600 a month). It has 700,000 titles but does not have many popular books because of the company’s tussle with leading publishers who worry about their revenues and costs. After all, why would they sell intellectual property like wheat by the kilo? Amazon’s focus is on self-published authors – and they have gained, the company said this month.

Amazon’s rivals Scribd ($8.99 a month) and Oyster ($9.95 a month) offer a wider range of titles from established publishers. Earlier this month, Scribd raised $22 million in venture funding led by Vinod Khosla’s Khosla Ventures. It has even launched audiobooks.

Two-year-old Oyster has a web reader that in fact requires no app – and offers as many as 500,000 titles including best-sellers like the Harry Potter series.

E-books and magazines are going the way of music, which is increasingly experienced through all-you-can-consume apps like Spotify and Saavn. Movies are already there. Netflix starts at $7.99 in the US and Big Flix in India at Rs 249 a month.

I think the last word is not yet out. Books, music, magazines and movies involve costs in everything from ideation to research, travel, wages and production. All-you-can-eat services are easy for low-value content. The industry will need sophisticated business models to encourage better production values.

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