"In the wake of Amazon’s announcement of a new ebook subscription service, Forbes published an article by a British think tank employee with the link-bait title of “Close the Libraries and Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription”. As you might gather, the idea put forth was that supporting this licensing approach might be more cost effective for enabling the public’s access to content than the traditional public library in the United Kingdom. While that might not be the greatest idea, there is still much that scholarly publishers can learn from Amazon’s business strategy.
As a historical footnote, subscription based libraries were big in Britain during the 18th and 19th century when reasonably affluent individuals might pay for access to the latest three volume novel. (For some historical background on subscription based lending libraries, see here and here respectively). In the context of the Kindle Unlimited subscription, the reader pays Amazon $120 per year (or $119.88, if we’re being sticklers for accuracy) and gains access to as much as they want from a collection of about 600,000 titles. Critics have noted that these are not the high-end titles found in a first rate public or academic library; Amazon’s offering doesn’t include best-sellers, textbooks or scholarly monographs."