Online retailer Amazon.com is in negotiations with publishers to create a digital library service for customers of its Amazon Prime service, according to Stu Woo and Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg of The Wall Street Journal. The authors compared the service to the movie-rental and video-streaming service Netflix, where people would be able to access electronic books as part of the $79-per-year service that includes unlimited two-day shipping and streaming video.
Trachtenberg and Woo wrote that the new Amazon service will feature older book titles, rather than current bestsellers. Publishers, however, may not necessarily be keen on the idea of a digital book library. Although publishers would receive a fee for supplying their content to the service, The Wall Street Journal article said several publishing executives felt that Amazon's idea would devalue books and damage relationships with other retail outlets.
So will Amazon.com talk publishers into going their way? It's possible, though they already have to deal with questions of why electronic books cost nearly as much, if not the same as a printed copy that has to be distributed to physical outlets. The opportunity to make money on back-catalog titles will be tantalizing, however. Amazon certainly stands to benefit from adding value to its Prime shipping service, providing content for its Kindle reader and possibly drawing attention to its long-rumored new tablet, if and when it's released. Those may be exactly the reasons why publishers may shy away, too. If you're a reader, this is certainly an issue worth following.