Star Trek fans are rejoicing, or at least semi-rejoicing, in the news that a new Star Trek TV series has just been announced for 2017. The series is going to be overseen by the writers from the controversial recent Abrams reboot movies, but at least it’s new Trek on TV, right?
Granted that Star Trek isn’t really an e-book-related matter (well, all right, it did popularize the idea of reading from tablet devices with the PADD in the late ‘80s to ‘90s, and it inspired the term “Picard’s Syndrome,” but that’s more of a side benefit), something pertaining to this series does bring to mind an important issue common to digital subscription distribution of all media—including e-books.
As Kris Naudus points out on Engadget, watching the series is going to require subscribing to yet another streaming service—the new CBS service, CBS All Access.
How willing are you to add another streaming service to your repertoire? Content is king, and this new Star Trek series is the first exclusive show announced for CBS All Access since the service’s launch in late 2014 — and it won’t debut until 2017. In the meantime, you have Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Now and a host of other services all hammering at your wallet. We may have been begging for “à la carte” programming, but that future is here and the cost is creeping steadily upward. The four services I just mentioned will run you around $40 a month combined, and that doesn’t include other types of programming, like sports (MLB.tv is $25 monthly, for example).
Or anime, for that matter. Crunchyroll and FUNimation have their own streaming services for those. Ironically, just as we’re asking for our cable TV to be unbundled so we can subscribe to just what we want, unbundled video streaming services are building toward a cable-style monthly fee themselves if you want to sub to all of them. (As a member of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime myself, I know what they’re talking about.)
The same could be said for e-book subscription services. Amazon wants all its subscription e-books to be exclusive to its service, so anything you find in Kindle Unlimited, you won’t find on competitors. So if you want to read something that isn’t on the service you subscribe to, you’re going to have to get it some other way.
Oddly, the problem doesn’t seem to exist as much for music. Even the lesser-used subscription streaming services (such as Google Play Music) offer access to the same library of popular titles as most others, thanks to compulsory licensing agreements and agencies that will happy do business with anyone who will pay them. Only rarely do I come across an album I want that’s on one service but not another.
Are we going to find some kind of solution? Are people going to turn to piracy rather than subscribe to a new service for the sake of just one show? This is a question that digital services of all sorts (except, perhaps, music) are going to have to address sooner or later. Wouldn’t it be ironic if this leads to history repeating itself and digital services coming together to offer discount-rate collective bundles—just like cable TV?