$14 a month for unlimited access to e-books: StarHub brings in book subscription app, Bookmate
Would you pay $14 every month for unlimited access to new bestsellers on your tablet or smartphone? StarHub has started a subscription-based e-book app in partnership with Russian-origin Bookmate, two months after the local telco suspended Booktique, an online store that sold books individually to consumers.
A premium monthly subscription of $14 grants access offline and online to half a million titles, from new books and bestsellers to business books, in nine languages including English and Russian. A standard $8 subscription limits access to older books, according to the official website bookmate.com.
Smartphone apps for Android and Apple platforms can be downloaded for free from the Google Play store and App store, and Bookmate can also be used via tablet computers.
Bookmate's subscription-based model is very much like that of a library and indeed the National Library Board's free OverDrive app and eReads app are its biggest competitors.
Previous now-defunct bookstores followed the direct sales model, including StarHub's Booktique, which launched in March 2013 and closed shop in October this year, SingTel's skoob and MediaCorp's ilovebooks. These stores sold individual e-books to customers. Industry watchers say the main hurdle was that the e-books often cost close to the price of print books instead of being at least 40 per cent cheaper, a strategy deployed by bigger overseas e-book retailers such as Amazon's Kindle store.
BookMate, which claims to be the market leader in Russia, began expanding into other countries including the United Kingdom this year. Major English-language publishers such as Serpent's Tail and Harper Collins are onboard the Singapore tie-up, allowing subscribers to read books such as this year's Man Booker shortlisted novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, or Singapore writer Ovidia Yu's mystery novel Aunty Lee's Delights.
International sales reps are cautiously optimistic about the new store, saying that it avoids the pricing hurdle which killed other local bookstores. It is also unlikely to affect sales of printed books, says one spokesman for Harper Collins, adding, "they are two completely different markets".