Netflix for Books: Is an eBook Subscription Right for You?

Let’s face it, you either know someone or are someone who subscribes to a monthly video or music service. Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify have changed the way users consume digital media. Is it so far-fetched that the same thing could happen for ebooks? There are several companies that are trying their best to convince you that ebook subscription services are the future of reading. They include Scribd, Playster, and the the hulking behemoth that is Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. And while subscription services haven’t taken off in the same way as movies or music, the real question is, are they right for you?

Choosing a service provider can be challenging.Thankfully, they all offer a free thirty-day trial period to dip your toe into the water.

  • Scribd: For $9.99 per month, you gain access to Scribd’s digital library consisting of books and audiobooks. It comes with a catch: Scribd recently changed its subscription policy from unlimited ebooks to a limit of three ebooks and one audiobook per month.
  • Playster: Coming in at $9.95, Playster offers its users access to over 250,000 ebooks and 50,000 audiobooks. Unlike Scribd, Playster offers its users unlimited usage of its titles. They also have a bundle feature, which adds movies, music, and games that come at a reduced price when bought all together.
  • Amazon Kindle Unlimited: At $9.99, Amazon Kindle Unlimited is priced competitively with other subscription services. But with an estimated library of over a million ebooks, Amazon crushes its competitors in terms of selection. In addition to ebooks, users can gain access to audiobooks and magazines.

    Before you make a decision, it’s important to factor in two things: book selection and your own reading habits. While all of these subscriptions boast, at the very least, hundreds of thousands of titles, you have to take into account that none of the subscription models will carry all the books you may want to read. Hachette, the world’s third largest publisher, has refused to let Amazon carry any of its titles for Kindle Unlimited. Penguin Random House, the world’s largest book publisher, has not made any of its titles available on any subscription services. It’s safe to say that most readers don’t really care where the book they are reading was published, but you may be a little peeved when the hot new fall title isn’t available to you because it was published by someone that your subscription service doesn’t have a contract with.

    The second thing to consider is your own reading habits. Unlike movies or music—which can take a couple of hours to consume—books are a much longer experience. The average ebook costs around $9.99, the same price for most monthly subscriptions. That means you would need to read twelve books a year to just break even. For a voracious reader, this could be the deal of a lifetime. But for the average American who only reads five books per year, you may be throwing your money down the drain. Thankfully, with the free thirty-day trials, you don’t have to commit to anything right away. Who knows, though, maybe an ebook subscription is what you’ve been looking for.

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