Friday, February 3, 2012

Streaming Digital Books by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

First, we streamed music. Then we streamed movies. And soon, we'll stream digital books. It's the next logical step in the new process of transforming and redefining the publishing/book industry.

Publishers have clung to tradition in how to produce books for as long as possible. Likewise, book distributors and bookstores have hung onto tradition in how to sell books since their business and livelihood depended upon it. Our library systems did the same. 

Since the beginning of the printing industry, as far back as Gutenberg's printing press in the late medieval period, books were sold on a per book basis--per unit/item. In our traditional thought process, we think of books as items--things. In the new digital world, books are content, whether it is through streaming words in a visual context or words through an audio context.

Now we have Audiobooks.com where you pay for unlimited streaming of books through the cloud--a flat membership fee of $25 a month. It's the same concept as Netflix's business of streaming movies and Spotify for streaming music. The price is constant regardless of which books you download, regardless of whether you read 5 books or 20 per month, or how many minutes or hours you spend reading.

As one writer pointed out in The Atlantic article, The Future of the Book is the Stream, that streaming books reframes book-buying so that it is less about purchasing a book and more about purchasing an experience.

What are YOUR thoughts about streaming books? How do you think it will affect publishers, authors, and bookstores?

8 comments:

Timothy Fish said...

I don't care for audio books, but for those who do, I see nothing wrong with it. But I can't help but think it is a little like an all you can eat buffet. There are some people who will get more than their money's worth, while there are others who won't eat enough to make it worth what they're paying.

Terry Burns said...

Mom and I had something in common - neither of us could listen to audio books - they put us to sleep.

Diana said...

I drove from SD to PA many times alone and books on tape kept me company in those stretches of Highway where I had no radio reception or only Country Music available.
Used to go to my Cracker Barrel and stock up- turn them in at the one in PA and stock up for my trip back. I would imagine I will be one that takes advantage of this and enjoy it along side of my love for my Kindle and print books as well.

Katherine Hyde said...

Audio books can never replace print (or e-print) books because the spoken word is not a book's primary medium. I love to read aloud, but I do not always love to listen to others read, because I'm always thinking about how I would do it differently.

When you listen to a book as opposed to reading it, you are introducing a third party into the author-reader relationship. You are getting your experience of the book mediated by the interpretation of the person reading it. I, for one, don't want this on a regular basis. It's entertaining once in a while, but it's not a substitute for actually reading.

Music and movies are different from books in that they can only exist in this mediated form. That's why movies get remade and songs get covered by a variety of artists: everyone has their own interpretation. But a book exists in absolute form, just waiting for each new reader to come along and interpret it for him- or herself. I, for one, prefer it that way.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I think some people are more visual learners and some are more auditory. Though my son is a voracious reader, he absorbs the information more quickly when he LISTENS to it. So I'm all for it!

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Since I work so much and have a long commute, I enjoy the ability to listen to a book or the Bible on my Kindle. I believe streaming books will have a place for some buyers, but not all. Netflix didn't take over the market or change it, but offered a different avenue for purchasing movies. I believe it will be similar with books.

Linda Glaz said...

Anyway to get a story out there is fine with me. Even listen to my Kindle's text to speech when doing long car trips alone. Love it!

daphnemh said...

I think most of you have missed the point. Streaming audio books already exists. That's not the future we're talking about here. It's streaming e-books. We're talking about an online library where as long as you have internet connection, you can read the book on your e-reader. You could even "buffer" the book so that if your internet flickers, you still have the book, as long as you don't shut down the device. It's not something you can keep or even copy. You just read it as often as you'd like. That is the future of book distribution.