Book Publishers Wary of Amazon’s Subscription Plans

By Tim Carmody

What if a $79/year subscription to Amazon Prime didn’t just buy you faster shipping for hardcovers and small appliances, and free streaming for old movies and TV shows? What if it also let you read entire books from a similarly curated back catalog?

Several executives speaking anonymously to the Wall Street Journal report that Amazon has approached book publishers about doing exactly that.

Amazon has told publishers it is considering creating a digital-book library featuring older titles… Amazon would offer book publishers a substantial fee for participating in the program, people familiar with the proposal said. Some of these people said that Amazon would limit the amount of books that Amazon Prime customers could read for free every month.

Before Prime members (disclosure: that’s me) start gleefully rubbing their hands together, note that the publishers haven’t signed on. In fact, their executives are deeply skeptical. (Amazon wouldn’t comment on the story, for either the Journal or Wired)

“What it would do is downgrade the value of the book business,” said one publishing executive.

Let me translate that for you: We have no idea how to price this, and that makes us afraid.

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