Could E-book Rentals Ever Be Viable for Trade Publishers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

For Rent

By Edward Nawotka

Today’s feature story looks at some of the consumer driven e-book models being implemented by text book publishers. One of those is book rental, where a student can rent a textbook at the fraction of the cost of buying the book. In textbook publishing, where books can run to the hundreds of dollars for a single specialized title, this is very appealing to students (aka: consumers). Ditto for STM publishing…but for the trade, could it ever work?

Presently, e-book distributors like Amazon merely license you the right to read an e-book that you buy from their store. Technically, you don’t own it. So, yes, a “licensing” or “rental” model is in place. And, certainly, borrowing a book from a library is none other than “renting” a title — albeit at no cost to the consumer — for a limited time. And, yes companies do exist that will literally “rent” you a physical book, of which is the best known example.

But could trade publishers, who are increasingly invested in the idea of going direct to consumer implement such a model? Would it drive the price of e-books — and their perceived value — so low as to make it an untenable arrangement?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.