Monday, 30 April 2012

Review: Artist's Network eBooks: Art Book Club

Have you come across F+W Media Artist's Network eBooks: Art Book Club yet?

The new website for the new Art Book Club for ebooks
Being in the publishing trade right now must be extremely challenging.  Traditional publishers of books and magazines are having to run hard to keep up with speed with which the online publishing business is shifting.

New ways have to be found to get people interested in paying for books - especially when some artists now write, produce, publish and market direct to their readers - effectively cutting out the middleman aka the publisher!

The Artist Network's Art Book Club for ebooks sounds like a good idea on the face of it.  However I think they've  made significant mistakes with
  • the functionality available on the launch date
  • the pricing strategy and subscription level - both of which I think are wrong.
For an annual subscription, you can gain access to over 100 art instruction ebooks in full color and in their original format via your computer, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or Android mobile device.  
F+W Media recently announced the arrival of their new Book Club for ebooks (see the Artist’s Network eBooks | An Art Instruction Digital Library by Jessica Canterbury, Managing Editor) - and launched the new website

It sounds good - until you get to this line.......
For the moment, the service is suited for a personal computer, but apps for iPad/iPhone, as well as Android devices, are on the way.
In fact, it would be a whole lot more accurate to say they launched a small part of the planned functionality and have asserted delivery of functionality which they absolutely cannot guarantee (unless their apps have already been approved and are just queuing for their launch date - in which case where's the launch date?).

The whole point about ebooks is they can be read on mobile devices.  If you don't have the apps ready for those devices then you aren't ready to go.  How you can ask for a subscription for an ebook service which can only be read on a computer?

There are also issues about getting your app approved for the Apple Apps store - and it's unwise to promise something you may be unable to deliver.  For example, before he died Jobs axed all apps which behaved like desktops.  Some apps take a long time to get approval.

To my mind F+W Media have gone way too early and may well rue the day they didn't wait until they'd got the mobile version available across iPad/iPhone at the very least.

In other words - as I was taught way back when - always over-deliver and delight rather than under-deliver and disappoint.


Now for the pricing strategy and the $199 annual subscription!  (Don't forget - what this actually means is that you need to pay $199 every year to continue to have access to all the books)

Apple's iTunes has generated huge amounts of revenue by unpacking the conventional bundle of tracks on an album.  Instead of selling Albums it sells tracks.  People don't think twice about paying $0.99 per popular track.

iTunes then sells the album at a discount on the cumulative total of the individual prices of all the tracks.  It also enables both iTunes and the artist to find out a lot more about what is it that people like best.  That in turn drives future marketing of product.

By way of contrast Artist Network is working the model in reverse.  Rather than selling individual books it's asking for $199 for an annual subscription which allows you access to whole ebooks (the art version of albums) - but only on a computer for the moment!

Rather than unpacking the product offering - eg offering chapters in books for very small sums - they've bundled up all the books on offer and said you can have them for a very high price.

Now what do you think the response of most people is going to be to that?

Why would F+W Media think that this strategy work better than the proven iTunes unbundling strategy?


This is what I recommend you do
  • Read the FAQs page and focus on what is being delivered right now - not what is promised sometime down the line.
  • Check out the books on offer
  • Calculate:
    • how many you own already
    • how many you don't own - and would like to read
    • how many you don't own and have absolutely no interest in
  • Now divide the annual subscription of $199 by the number of books you don't own and would like to read.  This gives you the equivalent cost per book of those you want to read - but you need to pay for the privilege all in one go - and you don't get to keep access to them beyond a year.
  • Now compare that cost of the books you want to read to the latest prices being quoted by Amazon for books which you get to keep forever
  • Compare the prices
  • You have your answer!
The current library of ebooks has more than 100 (and growing) art books from North Light Books.

I took a quick look through the topics I'm interested in and I already own a significant number and have no interest in a lot more.

Conclusion - I have no interest in paying the annual subscription - even if the books were available on my iPad.

Over to you - what do you think?  Will you be tempted by this new way of reading art books?


Carole Pivarnik said...

This pricing strategy and subscription format doesn't seem to make any sense in a world where many of those books are already available for Kindle or the Kindle app (free, works on PC, tablets, and smartphones) via Amazon.

North Light Books is not providing anything of value to their customers with this service, in my opinion. Instead it feels more like they poised to rip off those who many not know that there are other digital options for a lot of the books on offer.

Katherine Tyrrell said...

There certainly seems to be a sense of trying to get people to stay in the cosy world of North Light Books - no need to go and visit those not so nice people over at Amazon!

I can also readily appreciate that there very probably is a certain segment of the market which will be enormously grateful for that sort of approach

It just won't be the younger end of the market - and therein lies the dilemma for F&W.

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