New E-Book Lending Service Aims To Be Netflix For Books | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

New E-Book Lending Service Aims To Be Netflix For Books

Play associated audio

Movie lovers have Netflix, music lovers have Spotify — and book lovers (whether they read literary fiction or best-selling potboilers) now have Scribd. The document sharing website has been around since 2007, but this week it launched a subscription service for e-book lending.

Though Scribd now has the backing of Big Five publisher HarperCollins, it began as a self-publishing site. CEO and co-founder Trip Adler says his father, a doctor, wanted to publish a medical paper. "We wanted build a site that would let him more easily just get his paper up there on the Web and distribute it, and we quickly expanded that to other kinds of content like books, school papers, essays, creative writing."

Scribd now has 80 million monthly users, and the new subscription service will allow them access to unlimited e-books on any digital device for a fee of $8.99 a month. That will include most of the books on the HarperCollins backlist.

"We thought this through on both the reader side and on the publisher's side," Adler says. "So on the readers' side we want a simple value proposition where they pay a flat monthly fee and they can read whatever they want. On the publisher's side ... we made it fit their traditional models where they get paid every single time someone reads a book, so it's almost as if they're selling books through this service."

Scribd is buying the books, not the reader — who will not even notice that the transaction is taking place. "The moment the consumer reaches a certain percentage of read it triggers the sale," says Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer for HarperCollins. Her company is the first major publishing house to take part in this kind of subscription service.

Restivo-Alessi learned from her experience in the music industry that you have to get in early on new digital business models. "If you don't participate, it's very hard to influence. If you want to influence and impact the models, you have to be part of forming those models," she says. "You can't sit on the sidelines."

And, she adds, it's impossible to predict what will succeed in the digital marketplace. "We don't know whether this is going to be working, not working; we don't know whether there are differences by consumer type, by genre; and part of us participating is really having the ability to obtain information from our partners and learn what works and what doesn't in partnership with them."

Scribd CEO Adler expects a lot more subscription services like this will be springing up soon — and they'll all be in competition with Amazon, Apple and Google, but that's not all. "What we're competing with the most is other forms of media. These people are spending a lot more time watching videos, listening to music, playing games on social media, and what we're really doing is we're sticking up for books."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

A Puzzle With Ch-Ch-Changes

Every answer is a word starting with "ch," and your clue will be an anagram of the word.
NPR

What If The World Cup Were Awarded For Saving Trees And Drinking Soda?

We thought you'd get a kick out of seeing how the four teams in the final World Cup matches stack up in global health and development.
NPR

What Will Become Of Obama's Request For Immigration Relief Funds?

NPR's Arun Rath talks to political correspondent Mara Liasson about the chances of a political agreement over how to handle the migration of thousands of Central American children.
NPR

Looking For Free Sperm, Women May Turn To Online Forums

Bypassing commercial sperm banks, thousands are logging on to websites where women can connect with men at no cost. Anecdotes abound, but the scope of the unregulated activity is unclear.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.