Apple is moving ahead with a new video streaming service for its customers, which looks likely to expand to affect books as well as visual entertainment. In the excerpt below, bold, underlined text is my emphasis.
Apple is preparing a new digital video service that will marry original content and subscription services from legacy media companies, according to people familiar with the matter … The product will include Apple-owned content, which will be free to Apple device owners, and subscription “channels,” which will allow customers to sign up for online-only services, such as those from HBO and Starz.
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Apple is also trying to persuade executives of print media companies to join Texture, the company’s digital magazine product that it acquired earlier this year. Stern is also in charge of acquiring content for this effort and has had some difficulty persuading news organizations to give Apple control of the subscriber billing relationship, according to people familiar with the matter. Keeping direct control of customers’ purchasing decisions gives companies more ways of preventing them from canceling services (or adding new ones).
There’s more at the link. Recommended reading.
The article doesn’t mention books; but I’ll be very surprised if Apple’s offerings don’t expand to include a book “channel” for its customers. Given the smash success of Kindle Unlimited (KU) for Amazon, it would be astonishing if Apple ignored the potential for such a revenue stream. After all, Walmart is getting in on the act via its alliance with Kobo, which could also grow into a “channel” product like this. I’m sure other retailers can’t be far behind.
All that spells very bad news for traditional book outlets such as Barnes & Noble, of course. That company has made such a mess of itself that it’s hard to think it could do worse; but if it allows other companies to set up alternate outlets for book and reading matter consumption, that might cut B&N out of the loop entirely. One wonders how long the company can survive in such an environment.
Finally, of course, this also poses a challenge to independent authors. Can we find ways to include our books in such channel-type distribution systems? Perhaps more importantly, can we be paid at a level that justifies our participation? Amazon’s KU is already a major bone of contention, with some authors withdrawing their books entirely from Kindle Select because it’s hard to earn a decent return from KU “borrows”. One can sympathize with them. I’d say KU has cut into my earnings by at least a third, perhaps three-eighths. However, I can’t afford to do without KU revenues, so I’m kinda stuck in that program for now.
Can channel-based programs such as Apple’s offer an alternative to KU, and will it be a cost-effective one? Only time will tell. What say you, fellow writers and readers?