2 Oct 2013

Will Scribd Become Netflix for Books?

Scribd first launched in 2007, offering users a platform for users to share documents and other written content. We use it ourselves as a way to upload and embed documents that are relevant to our stories. For Scribd, moving into the subscription books business doesn’t seem like a huge leap, and several of the most important pieces are already in place.

For one thing, the company actually launched an e-book market back in 2009. And it already has users paying a subscription fee for access to premium content — in fact, co-founder and CEO Trip Adler told me the company “soft launched” this service in January by adding books to its premium offering, and that the service has been growing 60 percent for each month since.

Today Scribd its making its ambitions on this front clear, in part by announcing its first big deal with a major publisher — HarperCollins. The companies say that the “majority” of the back catalog for HarperCollins US and HarperCollins Christian will now be available in Scribd’s subscription service, with featured authors including Paolo Coehlo, Neil Gaiman, Marian Keys, and Elmore Leonard. That means Scribd subscribers won’t have access to most of the newest HarperCollins books — but the publisher’s full catalog, including new titles, will be available for purchase on an individual basis.

Adler emphasized three main points that characterize the Scribd system (and may help distinguish it from other “Netflix for books” competitors like the recently launched Oyster).

First, readers only pay $8.99 per month and can read unlimited books — Adler said this is a pricing model that has “worked incredibly well for videos and music.” Second, because the subscriptions are integrated with Scribd’s existing social platform, it facilitates book discovery in new ways. Third, Scribd’s approach is “device agnostic”, with iPhone, iPad, and Android apps, as well as a website that works on both desktop and mobile browsers.

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