I have been a Spotify subscriber for almost a year now and use it every day at work. I am an avid eBook reader, I read every day, and I still long for a service that can do for my reading habit what Spotify does for my music habit. For those unfamiliar, Spotify is a music streaming service that for a very reasonably fee allows you to access a library of millions of songs across a variety of devices. It has it’s detractors, sure, http://torrentfreak.com/artists-think-instead-spewing-spotify-hate-140222/, but the service does provide, for me, at least a very attractive alternative to maxing out my credit cards or piracy.
Digital has forced a rethinking of ownership. In the analog days we owned vinyl albums, printed books, VHS tapes. These were all physical things that took up space on our shelves, in our closets and under our beds. In the digital age consumption has replaced ownership. For most things I am okay with that. I still look with pride on my shelf of H.P. Lovecraft collections, yet I would be lying if I did not say I enjoy the convenience of having them available on my smartphone when I’m waiting for an appointment. The ones on my shelf make up a collection; the ones in my phone are for my consumption.
Nathan Bransford poses an interesting question on this very same topic, http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2014/02/will-there-ever-be-successful-netflix.html His take has tasked me with questioning do we need a service for books. I usually read two eBooks a month, rarely spending more than $4 a book. That is less than my Spotify or Netflix account, yet I would still welcome a subscription service. Currently I buy eBooks, consume them and will probably leave them to occupy the ones and zeroes of cyberspace. I don’t really need to own these books once I have read them and I can’t sell them or in most cases lend them. I would just as soon pay $8 for a service that lets me consume those books as well as ones costing $9 or even the insane price of $14. At that point the service is saving me money.
Let’s go to the elephant in the room, the ugly painting on the wall, the word you probably have been shouting at this point. Libraries. In the interest of full disclosure I have no trouble saying I am a librarian and my opinion of borrowing eBooks from the public library, in a word, sucks. Many of the services I have tried are the epitome of shoehorning advancing technology into the status quo. As Leonard Hofstatder said, “way to think outside but press up against the box.” The Kindle Lending Library comes close as well but does me no good on my smartphone or tablet. So we still lack a competitive service for readers. That being said libraries are trying to move forward. I do feel the library has a reader’s best interests at heart and many of these issues get lumped in with the library continuing to evolve in our digital online connected world. Platforms like BiblioBoard show some real process. As does the concept of the Library as Publisher, http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/article/wanna-write-good-one-library-publisher. We are eventually seeing some real progress from libraries, but I can still hope for my eBook version of Spotify. Can’t I?