The market for books and news

Almost all my reading these days is done on a Kindle, and I miss being able to lend or give books to friends (a book voucher isn’t the same).

For news, I like to read and share good articles.  I’m prepared to pay, but I certainly need the ability for friends to be able to read the articles I share without signing in.

Both the market for ebooks and news share some characteristics:

  • A significant cost of creation of the content for the creator, in terms of time and expertise
  • A low or zero marginal cost of each incremental
  • Variable quality (and not always easy to judge)
  • People’s consumption depends on culture and habits

I’d love to see society increase the value of content created and consumed, but our market system seems to be struggling, and I’m not sure what the answer is.

Paying for content creation via advertising doesn’t seem to be working.  We’re getting better at filtering it out, and it seems to drive towards maximising page views rather than value.

Member supported / crowd-funded does seem to work in a lot of cases, and I particularly like that these often allow ‘pay what it is worth for you’, reducing inequality.  Though personally, I don’t like the messages pressuring me into giving, or the feeling that someone else is free-riding off my generosity.

Hard paywalls work in some cases, but they reduce consumption.  Also, I still fear that many other people may be accessing the content without paying.

I do like soft paywalls (for example letting people view a certain number of articles each month), or memberships that create a sense of common ownership.   

I’m sure there is more than one solution, and I hope to see more discussion and more innovation as we explore what is possible.

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