But what if you could re-define books’ value proposition? What if book-buying became less about one-off salesmanship, and more about ongoing membership? What if you didn’t buy books so much as join them?
It’s that kind of wholesale, psychic reframing that Audiobooks’ model is hinting at. And while audiobooks are a special case in that, being audiobooks, they’re especially suited to streaming, it’s easy to see a membership model proving effective for all kinds of digital content, “traditional” e-books very much included. It’s easy to envision a kind of iTunes-in-reverse subscription framework that charges customers not per book, but per month – or, hey, per minute or week or year. Time over tome.
And it’s easy to imagine, furthermore, that shift bringing a new life to books both as consumer goods and as epistemic objects. Book-buying, made blissfully brainless! Reading, unlimited! Netflix’s streaming model – which Amazon, the rumor goes, might soon be imitating – changed the way we relate to movies. Spotify’s streaming changed the way we relate to songs. The cloud is a powerful thing. And the revolution that’s taking place in computing overall – the computer as an object giving way to the computer as a service – is changing our approach to content consumption, as well. As more and more of our stuff moves to the cloud, and as the mechanism of stuff-storage shifts from the download to the stream, the membership-driven library seems more and more feasible. And more and more sensible. And more and more exciting.