I’ve been immersed for the last several days in something called Spotify. It’s a music listening service. You sign up (if you just want the free service, you ask to sign up, and then they send you an email giving you the chance to do so; it’s kind of like standing in line to get a wristband to come back and stand in line to buy a ticket to a concert), download the software, and it gives you streaming access to as much music as you can possibly listen to. Cubed. Everything from new music like Lady Gaga and to musicians like Robert Johnson (not the delta blues singer; the white one) who are so obscure they haven’t heard of themselves. It’s like a giant music listening library on your computer. If you just want to sit and listen to music on a computer — any computer — it’s free, other than for sitting through an occasional commercial. If you want more bells and whistles, there are two subscription platforms which are fairly modest (five dollars and ten dollars per month, respectively) and that let you access Spotify from your Smartphone or whatever and to listen without the occasional commercial.
So I’m curious…is there a market for a subscription service this in the book world, with, of course, some fine tuning? Would you pay five or ten dollars a month for electronic access to three to six books for a limited time (say twenty-eight days)? I’m talking about a selection of books which would be basically unlimited, everything from that long lost volume of The Motor Boat Boys’ Mississippi Cruise published in 1912 to The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill, which dropped this week. You wouldn’t be owning, but renting. The advantage over the library, besides selection, is that you would no longer have to wait for that new soon-to-be bestseller to be returned by the gaggle of unwashed ahead of you in the reserve queue. The advantage over buying the book outright, at least as far as the more popular books are concerned, is that you no longer are in a position of paying more for the e-book than for the physical copy.
I am well aware of the difficulties involved in such an enterprise — rights, the fixing of a subscription price, and, most importantly, how do we divide up the subscription fees among the writers? — but we’ll play with those crayons down the road. For now, I’d like to know if readers find this idea at all appealing. Do you?