Thursday, 12 April 2012

Rent an Ebook?

Both in the USA and UK, an increasing number of libraries are offering ebooks for download to their members and now an apparently new concept has been launched by the former MD of Waterstones - Tim Coates. 
 He has just announced the launch (in Britain) of his online bookshop, Bilbary and, in an article in the Daily Telegraph, has challenged publishers by saying that, owing to the lack of distribution costs, ebooks should retail for half the price of a printed book. As might be imagined, publishers have hit back, claiming that his argument is over simplified and much more than mere distribution costs need to be taken into consideration when pricing an ebook.

In addition to his controversial claim, Tim Coates has announced that Bilbary (to be opened next month) will offer a new concept by which readers can 'rent' an ebook. Needless to say, the major publishers have not yet bought into this, but he expects their attitude to change before too long.

Bilbary will, he says, also work in partnership with libraries, so that when a reader buys a book, money will go to their local library. Apparently, this system has been operating in the USA but, so far, not in the UK. He blames this on the way British libraries are run.

To read the full Daily Telegraph report, please click here:
So, what do you think? Is Tim Coates a visionary with a brilliant new business model - or he is about to fall flat on his face? 
Should Amazon be worried, or just let him get on with it? 
And is he right when he says that ebooks need only cost half as much as printed books?
Finally, what will all this mean to writers? Should we be encouraging or disparaging?


  1. It's such a complex question, there are no simple answers. All I know is, since I started reading e-books (and continued to read p-books as well) I've been reading more than ever, and I've heard of erstwhile non-readers who've taken to the electronic versions. That has to be good. But at the same time, my gut feeling is that I expect to pay slightly - just slightly - less for an e-book. It's like renting a DVD vs. going to the cinema: just not quite the same, therefore worth less.

  2. Thanks for joining me, Sue. I agree with your comments and there is a lot of evidence to show that ebooks have caused people to start reading for pleasure when they would previously never have dreamt of doing so. Pricing is such a minefield, isn't it? In my years in marketing, it was always regarded as one of the most difficult elements to get right. Some would say THE most difficult. There is a lot of psychology involved.

  3. hmmm...why should they only pay half? The author had the same amount of work to produce the book and deserves to receive the same salary (mind you I think it's only about 1p a book from a library, isn't it?).