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If this model takes hold, the thing that may need to change is the book itself. The economics of subscription suggest a shift in incentives away from the years-long creation of 300+ page tomes, and toward serialization or shorter forms. It behooves me, as an author, to have 10 or 20 "books" (or serialized installments) floating around the system each year, casting a wider net, than to bet the farm on one book a year.

This is a prime example of how this development could end up hurting consumers. For those of us that strongly prefer 'deep' books rather than ones released in chunks, the economic disincentives facing authors of such works suggest that there will be fewer options available in the future.

Of course, this isn't unprecedented. Dickens used to publish serially (partly because publishing and copyright enforcement was a bit of a free-for-all back then), and even the book-length versions of the novels had to be subsidized with advertising to offset the piracy losses. I have a copy of Great Expectations with advertisements for laundry soap and brass polish, which were aimed at the servants who were the target audience for the book.




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