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Could Scribd Be the Netflix of Books?

February 7, 2018 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday

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Will Digital  Subscriptions For Access to Hundreds of Thousands  Books Ever Fly?

In our post of October 9, 2013, titled E- BOOKS: COULD THIS BE “BOOKFLIX”?, we wrote,

  in an article in the New York Times  published on October 1, 2013 titled,  “‘HarperCollins Joins Scribd in E-Book Subscription Plan,’”   quotes the CEO of Scribd, Trip Adler, as saying: “’The main thing publishers of all kinds want is more readers, more distribution and more revenue. We’re building more of a destination site for readers. “A lot of startups want to be the Netflix (or Spotify, Pandora, whatever) for ebooks. That is, they want to provide unlimited access to ebooks for a flat monthly fee.”’

Is There a Need?

In the same October 9, 2013 post we observed that,

“E-Book publishers have lagged miserably in adapting to the new media. The e-reader is not much different from the Palm Pilot. There is customer resistance to the price of e-books approaching that of a hard cover print edition of the same work. The price of an e-book does not seem justified when the traditional costs of producing a print book are eliminated. Moreover ebook publishers have taken the position that even if you “buy” an e-book, you cannot not resell it. The image of ebook publishers is one of limiting access and closely guarding profits.”

Is There a Market in 2018?

In 2013, the e-book seemed poised to produce a paradigm change in the way people read books. Since then, however, e-book sales have declined, and print bookstores have experienced a resurgance. Does this mean that there is a market in 2018 for e-book rentals on a subscription basis? Scribd believes that there is. According to its website,

“On Scribd you have access to the world’s largest collection of e-books, articles, sheet music and other written works. In our subscription membership [$9 per month] collection, you’ll have access to over 400,000 books from over 900 publishers, including New York Times bestsellers, literary classics, groundbreaking non-fiction, and more in every genre!” (Scribd)

Is Paywall a Barrier?

Some foresee that the rise of paywall may cause media publishers to question the need for a middleman such as Scribd. FastCompany in its article of February 6, 2018 observed,

“As more [on line] publications erect paywalls, this part of a Scribd subscription could look more valuable, but the math is tricky … Magazines and newspapers are even more in flux than digital books. After decades of giving content away, ever more publications are finding that readers will pay. It started with must-read sites like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. Then The Atlantic …  Now a broader swath of magazines, such as Wired is also jumping on.”

Will Scribd Face A Rise in Licensing Fees?

As FastCompany observes,

“If Scribd follows the path of Netflix, it could face much higher licensing fees … Netflix can no longer sign deals with the same attractive terms it negotiated in its early days, when it was small and Hollywood saw streaming as incremental revenue. Netflix’s strategy has been to cut back on what it licenses and produce its own shows and movies.” What could Scribd do in terms of producing its own original content remains a question and concern.

Where To From Here?

The future of subscriptions for e-books depends on the future of the e-book itself.  According to the February 7th edition of JustPuvlishingAdvice,”What Is The Future Of Ebooks,”

“Currently, ebooks are boring as they are almost exclusively, except for the cover image, black text on a white background.

With the capacity of devices such as the iPad, Kindle Fire, smartphones, phablets and a whole range of other devices, all capable of delivering rich, colourful interactive displays, the ebook starts to look a little drab, old-fashioned and decidedly dull.

The future of ebooks will depend on moving away from the concept that an ebook is just a copy of a book in electronic form, and therefore must look as much like a book as possible.

Paper pages wrapped in a cardboard cover is not technology; it’s tradition and history.”

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