Disney Publishing on Tuesday launched Disney Digital Books, a site that features a large selection of new and classic Disney children’s books. (The service was to have been launched last year.) The site charges users US $80 per year for access. The user interface is browser-based and resembles so-called digital editions of magazines: it is based on the Flash format and includes visual “page-turning” effects.
The reader also includes educational features for children, such as click to hear words aloud, dictionaries, and trivia facts. No printing is available. Newer titles include audiovisual enhancements.
The idea of a subscription e-book service is in its early days. Some important early examples of it include Safari Books Online, a joint venture of tech publisher O’Reilly & Associates and Pearson that makes e-books on IT topics available, and ebrary, a joint venture of several leading publishers that makes a large body of works available to students through their libraries.
The most notable thing about Disney Digital Books and the other above examples is that they were all built “from scratch” rather than on an existing e-book or digital edition platform such as Adobe Digital Editions/Content Server, Nxtbook, Texterity, or Zinio. It’s possible, especially with the Adobe platform, to support e-book subscription services, but the business model is not familiar to consumers.
With services like Disney Digital Books, that will surely change. Disney recognizes that many of its books intended for beginning readers have useful shelf lives of a year or less (except, perhaps, for Eight Is Enough-type families). A subscription service makes sense for this market, as it should prove to do for other markets in the coming months and years.