Home » Big Publishing, Ebook Subscriptions » Scribd, HarperCollins Offer E-Book Subscriptions

Scribd, HarperCollins Offer E-Book Subscriptions

2 October 2013

From ABC News:

Online document-sharing site Scribd is taking a page from Netflix’s success story as it sets out to create the world’s largest subscription service for digital books.

The opening chapter in Scribd’s quest begins Tuesday with the introduction of an e-book subscription service that will boast thousands of titles published by HarperCollins before July 2012. HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp., becomes the first of the five largest U.S. publishers to join a service vying to create an alternative to buying individual titles.

Scribd will charge $9 per month for a service that offers unlimited access to most of HarperCollins’ back catalog, as well as an assortment of other books from smaller publishers. Recent best sellers from Harper Collins aren’t included in the subscription service, although customers will be able to buy new titles individually on Scribd’s site.

. . . .

 HarperCollins and authors will be paid based on how much their books are read under a complicated formula, Adler said. He declined to provide more specifics about the financial arrangements.

Link to the rest at ABC News and thanks to DJ for the tip.

Big Publishing, Ebook Subscriptions

7 Comments to “Scribd, HarperCollins Offer E-Book Subscriptions”

  1. Some questions come to mind:
    1. Do current (and past) book contracts include a clause about book rentals? (Or will another addendum be on its way)
    2. What percentage will the author make on each rental? (I’m guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 1% or about a penny per- assuming subscribers “rent” multiple books a month for their $9- lower rates than Amazon’s loaner service)
    3. Will authors have the opportunity to refuse inclusion in this program? (I’m guessing not- corporate BigPub doesn’t want to handle each book contract separately, but like just another interchangeable gizmo on the assembly line)
    4. Will a few best-seller authors get a special rate for inclusion and then become big cheerleaders for the program, bashing on the rest of the authors for not understanding what a “great deal” this is?

    • I’d take odds on point #4, Eric. I can almost guarantee that’s going to happen.

      • I’ll be pessimistic, and say that once this kind of thing gathers momentum, indie self-pub will be over.

        In digital media, it’s so much easier to make money as a content aggregator than as a content creator.

        These kinds of cross-licensing/rental deals are the one area where trad-pub still has power. Not only will the ‘complicated formula’ most likely remain proprietary, but publishers will have no incentive to report or distribute earnings with honesty.

        It will also put authors back in their place, and we’ll hear cheers resounding all over New York.

        Something similar happened in music – see Spotify, etc – and the results for creators were a financial disaster.

        The one bright ray of hope is that publishing is so full of incompetent twits it’s not impossible they’ll get it wrong.

        They’d have to do a deal with Amazon, B&N, and Apple to make it work, or create their own distribution networks with ereader support – neither of which is easy, and may be entirely beyond their pay grade.

  2. Hmm, as a reader I am intrigued. I love the idea of unlimited ebooks for a monthly rate. I’d have two questions.

    #1 How easy will it be? I’m spoiled by Amazon’s one-click and whispersync. Their search functions and downloading need to be at least as good as Amazon’s, or why bother.

    #2 Harper-Collins? Bleah. They publish many of my favorite authors, but their ebook formatting on backlist titles is worse than sub-par. It’s sometimes unreadable. I don’t buy their backlist titles as ebooks anymore because half the times the ebooks are broken and all the time the ebooks aren’t proofread to clean out the OCR garbage.

  3. I have to send DMCA takedown notices to this site frequently. It’s way too easy for it to act as a pirate site. Ugh.

  4. “HarperCollins and authors will be paid based on how much their books are read under a complicated formula, Adler said. He declined to provide more specifics about the financial arrangements.”

    That should tell you everything you need to know.

    How complicated? More complicated than existing royalty statements?

    Considering BPH involvement in new media tech (basically, none) they would hav to leap a number of giant chasms, or pay someone else a fortune, to put together any online system of their own that would work well.

    • “HarperCollins and authors will be paid based on how much their books are read under a complicated formula, Adler said. He declined to provide more specifics about the financial arrangements.”

      Undoubtedly a formula so complicated that no author will ever be entirely sure what Harper owes.

      Words fail.

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