What’s the Missing Ingredient for Unlimited Reading Services?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

What’s the Missing Ingredient for Unlimited Reading Services?I’ve been a fan of unlimited e-reading services for at least a couple years now. When Oyster Books went under I shifted to Kindle Unlimited. For short-form magazine content I use Texture, the offering formerly known as Next Issue.

Prices for these services are typically in the $10-15/month range and, for the most part, I think they’re worth it. Even though I refer to them as “unlimited,” one key shortcoming is what’s not available on the all-you-can-read platforms. You’ll rarely find the bestselling books in an unlimited reading service, for example. Just because the catalog offered contains hundreds of thousands of titles, it doesn’t mean you’re likely to find the next great read there.

Lately I’m realizing that I’m not getting much use out of my Texture subscription. The issue isn’t so much that it lacks titles. In fact, now that Texture includes access to almost 200 magazines, it’s hard to find ones that aren’t included. And that’s the problem.

The value proposition for these unlimited services has always been based on overwhelming you with content. What I really want them to offer now is a curated experience.

Texture knows that I enjoy reading BusinessWeek and Sports Illustrated, for example. So why not let me configure my Texture subscription to ensure I never miss articles about my favorite teams and industries/companies I want to follow? Then use that information to help me continue expanding my horizons, presenting me with content on adjacent businesses.

Put all that material together in a custom magazine, made just for me every week (or whatever frequency I prefer). Let me vote up/down on articles so the system can better determine what I really like (e.g., certain writers, themes, styles, etc.) How about letting me share my custom magazines with other Texture subscribers, and vice versa?

Curation of unlimited book subscriptions is a bit trickier. But how about starting by sending excerpts from newly added titles I might enjoy, based on my reading habits to date? It often feels like I’m searching for that needle in a haystack when I try to figure out what book I should read next. There have got to be ways to simplify and help me narrow things down as well as ensure I don’t overlook an obvious winner.

I’m not looking for a million books or hundreds of magazines. I want what most interests me and I’d like to see the subscription services figure that out. Don’t make me just come to you and open your app. Communicate with me via email and/or text messages, if I prefer. Surprise and delight me rather than simply expecting me to be wowed by the overwhelming amount of content offered.

This article first appeared on Joe Wikert’s Digital Content Strategies.

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2 thoughts on “What’s the Missing Ingredient for Unlimited Reading Services?

  1. Mark Watkins

    This post is spot on! There’s oceans of content out there and people are buried in it. Conversely, there are many great curators out there, but their tastes and mine don’t always overlap. And people are busy, they don’t have time to go looking for stuff, it needs to be brought to them, contextually. Something needs to aggregate all that curated information, personalize it to my tastes, and bring it to me.

    I call this “personalized curation”, and I wrote more about it here: https://medium.com/@thehawaiiproj/the-power-and-limits-of-curation-panning-for-gold-in-the-digital-flood-2dd22d048069#.co9fkdgqp

    At The Hawaii Project, a personalized book discovery engine, we are taking an approach very much along the lines of what you suggest.

  2. David Mark Brown

    Interesting. The curation issue you bring up is exactly the reason I have never thought the \unlimited\ reading services would work. Two years ago I wrote a post predicting the failure of Oyster and Scribd’s efforts.
    I think subscription models are destined to succeed, but past successes within the romance and mystery genres seem to indicate that curated subscription platforms have a leg up. A niche/curated genre platform has to stock fewer titles and is able to generate higher customer loyalty and trust.*

    Sports, sci-fi & fantasy, romance, mystery, YA, etc. All of these have potential for great subscription services that provide exactly what you describe above. But they can do it without having to license hundreds of thousands of titles their readers aren’t interested in.

    (*Plus, using the \health club New Year’s Resolution\ model that banks on the hope that readers will pay monthly and then not read is depressing.)



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