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Disney shows how to tear down walled gardens

Tired of dealing with the fragmented mobile marketplace that iOS and Android represent? The imagineers at Disney have come up with a terrific way to address that problem. It’s both a much-needed solution for consumers and also a clever way for Disney to maintain a direct relationship with consumers who buy indirectly.

I’m referring to the Disney Movies Anywhere initiative, which lets you buy a movie on one platform and watch it on either platform. Imagine a world where all those ebooks you bought on the Kindle platform could also be read now on the Nook platform, and vice versa. You’d be free to choose the lowest price, no longer worrying about ebook library lock-in, where you’ve bought so many titles you can’t imagine abandoning that retailer.

Sounds like a nightmare for the big retailers but a huge win for consumers and publishers.

Of course, how many publishers have the Disney muscle to force retailers into such a model? Very few.

But wouldn’t it be cool if one or more of the Big Five book publishers pushed for something just like this? The first thing a reader would see when they open that ebook from Amazon, B&N, or anywhere else is a message from the publisher thanking them for their purchase and showing the steps necessary to register the purchase with the publisher so the book can be read on any ebook platform.

The publisher not only does the reader a service, they also establish a direct link to all their customers. That leads to a better understanding of customer interests and trends as well as the opportunity to upsell other products directly.

Every retailer except the largest should support this concept as well. If you’re the distant #2 or #3 ebook retailer, you should totally embrace the opportunity to level the playing field with this; you’ll suddenly gain more relevance as all those books bought on the #1 retailer’s platform could now be read on yours.

Here’s another interesting byproduct: How long would the #1 retailer continue selling ebooks at a loss when every sale no longer reinforces consumer lock-in and, in fact, becomes yet another ebook the consumer can read on competitor platforms?


Adam Engst

Yep, this is a good idea, and one we've implemented with Take Control Books since multiple formats became important. There's an Ebook Extras button on the cover (and embedded in the text) of every one of our ebooks; clicking it enables the reader to download other formats, get updates to the book, and so on. It works regardless of where the book has been purchased, so brings in readers who have found us on Amazon or the iBooks Store, for instance.

cheers... -Adam

Michael W. Perry

Smashwords offers the same deal. Buying from them gives access to as many formats as their system creates. The primary hitch is that they're built around Word submissions. From that, every other format is generated. But the last time I checked, author/publishers can supply Smashwords with their own epub, Kindle and PDF versions.

Joe Wikert

Thanks Michael. The key here, of course, is to get as many major retailers as possible to support this, especially Amazon. This has the potential to be a game-changer, but only if the biggest retailer participates. And since there's no incentive for Amazon to participate, they'd have to be forced into it.


I don't quite understand. Publishers are the ones who determine whether their titles have DRM on Kindle. As has been pointed out, some publishers do allow unlimited use while selling their ebooks through Amazon.

Joe Wikert

Hi Steve. This concept has nothing to do with DRM, which is why DRM wasn't mention in the article. Rather, this is all about turning indirect customers into direct customers, something more and more publishers are looking to accomplish.

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