Subscription eBook services and publishersI’m obviously missing something about subscription eBook services and publishers. To me, it seems like they are a natural. Readers can try a book without worrying about the cost, probably leading them to try something they wouldn’t otherwise read. That’s great for book discovery, which is currently a big concern in the industry. When readers try a book, the publisher gets paid. Seems like a good match to me.

However, clearly I’m not seeing something. I read an article yesterday from Businessweek, where they were talking about the Digital Book World conference, and there was this quote:

Carolyn Reidy, the chief executive officer of Simon & Schuster (CBS), said at a panel on Tuesday that the company has been discussing subscriptions, but there were unresolved questions about how to avoid devaluing books and cannibalizing sales. For now, it’s staying away.

If a publisher is paid when the book is read, how is that devaluing books and cannibalizing sales? Why does the publisher care if they are paid when I buy a book or when I read it from a subscription service? According to an article from Digital Book World

Shatz and Batten both reminded the audience of their programs’ payment models for publishers. “As soon as someone reads a book in Oyster, we pay the publisher.” With Entitle, too, Batten said, “publishers get paid the way they would in a typical retail model.”

When publishers said they are concerned about the long term health of the services, that I understand. I have similar concerns, especially considering how I personally use Scribd. It’s the cannibalizing sales argument that I don’t get.

Anyone want to enlighten me?