Netflix mad a lot of money in a hurry but if you follow the data, you have seen their value go down over the past few years, and there are plenty of signs that could point to long term instability. The same is true for Pandora and Spotify. This is a recognizable pattern in the tech world where longevity not revenue, is the real problem. Start ups can show up, make millions, and crumble in a few short years due to the volatility and instability of everything from consumer markets to legal infrastructure.
Then there is the question of how much do consumers really value books as opposed to music or movies? This is the fungibility/commodification issue that I write about fairly often. Consumers are willing to pay premiums to see a particular musician perform, but when I saw Billy Collins (whose that?), one of America's premiere poets read his poetry it was free and in a community college gym. If his poems were music, the ticket would have cost me at least $100. The same is true of authors. We dont pay to see them, and we dont connect to them the say way we do to actors and musicians. Librarians and avid book lovers do, but most consumers are not in those categories.
Even the above graphic suggest a fairly low price for access as opposed to high interest. Price point is the real issue. Like everyone on the tech side of the open access argument, I have high hopes but have become far more cynical about the promises of open systems than most of my peers, because the market evidence is not good. And our culture has evolved away from a text based literacy to a media based literacy, which is further evidence of the commodified nature of books as opposed to music. This thought occurred to me when I listened to Professor Tom Bell discuss copyright and Intellectual Privilege in this excellent podcast. Professor Bell is making a far more subtle and complex argument for copyright reform than most in the tech community, and one of his examples is Charles Dickens who came to the United States to protest the unauthorized reproduction of his work, lost, but ended up making a lot more money on the speaking circuit. While I appreciate Professor Bell's argument and example, I think he does not quite understand how his example is no longer applicable in an information ecosystem that has become multiliterate and nontextual. People did pay to see Charles Dickens and pay a significant amount, but there are no contemporary examples that can be pointed to in today's world.
So while I applaud the idea, and think it may work for a decade or so, I don't see long term viability in the idea- yet.