When It Comes to Ebook Subscriptions, One Size Does Not Fit All!

In Editorial & Opinion by Guest Contributor

Global brands may appear to dominate ebook subscriptions, but the truth is that nimble, local publishing startups across Europe are winning authors’ hearts and minds.

Editorial by Nathan Hull

Göteborg 2015.03.06. Nathan Hull. (Som står framför en vägg målad av Carolina Falkholt) Foto: Niklas Maupoix

Nathan Hull (Photo: Niklas Maupoix)

Why are local publishers not afforded the same freedom to do what is most effective, most appropriate and, often, most lucrative for the author in the digital space, the way they have for decades in print?

The publishing industry has a long history of allowing and encouraging what is right for each market in print. Publishers use different jackets in different countries, books are translated, even the English language is changed between U.S. and U.K. publications. Locally preferable book sizes or paper types can be chosen, publication dates are changed, marketing campaigns are localized and special sales options and formats can be made relevant and particular to any given market. And while we’re at it, let’s change the spelling of authors’ names, too — so they work better locally. Say hello, Džefs Kinnijs (as Jeff Kinney of Wimpy Kid fame is known in Latvia).

It is clear that one size does not fit all in the digital space either, yet this is the rule so often liberally applied with charming caution. That caution will, of course, continue to be the status quo, and I’m not one to hang publishers out to dry because many are starting to experiment in this space, but many still aren’t. Now will be the time to learn and gain intelligence.

If local business models are researched well and chosen judiciously, authors will earn more money, their works will reach new readers, and both publishers and authors can gain intelligence along way to better adapt their next decisions.

Across Europe, new business models are growing rapidly, many of them involved in subscriptions. Whether it’s Germany’s Skoobe, Spain’s Nubico, or Estonia’s Elisa, new businesses with new models are positively changing the face of an author’s income stream and market reach. (Sure, Oyster in the United States recently shuttered, but their talent was absorbed by Google, which tells you all you need to know about the potential of the segment. And let’s not forget the example of Myspace which had 75 million monthly uniques at its peak. To lose it was unimaginable, but it died on the vine because of its shortcomings. This didn’t mean social networks were dead. In the background, looking and learning, was Facebook.)

It would be a grave oversight by agents and publishers to not pursue dialogue, gather research and then experiment in field. Stagnation should not be an option.

Much of the digital money for authors in Denmark is from Mofibo, the ebook subscription company where I work. No, it’s not a global brand. It’s not Amazon. It’s not Google. It’s not Apple. Furthermore, the revenues generated are new money and do not affect print income. With print remaining unaffected, Mofibo has transformed the share of digital book sales in Denmark from 3% to 18% in just two years.

And it gets better. Unlike other retailers, Mofibo also gives all the data back to the publishers, allowing them to learn about their readers, the readers’ habits, their environments and much more, effectively providing the publisher with a wealth of business intelligence they have never previously received from a traditional retailer.

Mofibo provides data, strong revenue, a pay-per-book model, and new readers gained from high-budget marketing campaigns and partnerships. This is a sustainable and profitable company seeing double-digit growth this year.

With further markets opening for Mofibo strategically across Europe in 2016, consider this a nudge of encouragement to embrace the new and a rewarding nod to those already reaping the rewards of how a successful subscription model works.

Nathan Hull is the Chief Business Development Officer of Mofibo, an ebook subscription service based in Denmark.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.