Home » Smashwords, Subscription » Is the subscription model in trouble? Scribd dumps romance titles

Is the subscription model in trouble? Scribd dumps romance titles

30 June 2015

From author Bob Mayer:

Got this just now from Draft2Digital through which we have titles in Scribd:

As we all know, the concept of a subscription service for books is extremely new. There are several models on the market now for effectively monetizing subscriptions, and none of them exactly matches what we’re used to from traditional sales royalties. As the market experiments with different approaches, there are bound to be some missteps and false starts along the way. In fact, we should expect this business model to evolve even more in the near future.

Scribd took a significant risk putting in place a model that paid authors the same amount as a retail model for each book read by a subscriber. As we all know, romance readers tend to be incredibly avid readers. In trying to cater to this voracious readership while under this progressive payment model, Scribd has put itself in a difficult place. In a bid to better balance these operating expenses, Scribd is immediately slashing the volume of romance novels in its subscription service.

If you are receiving this email, then you are a Draft2Digital author who has published books in the romance genre to Scribd. This means that some or all of your romance novels are likely going to be delisted from their service today. (Books that are priced at free will not be removed.)

While a large number of romance novels will be removed from Scribd, it isn’t all of them. We aren’t privy to the exact guidelines Scribd is using to decide which romance novels will remain, and it’s our understanding that they remain in flux at Scribd. However, over the coming days, we will be working closely with Scribd to resolve the exact criteria and share them with you so that you’ll have the opportunity to restore all of your titles to the service.

Please Note: If you write in other genres, understand that those books will not be affected by this policy change.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and assure you that we are working with Scribd to explore alternative solutions to this challenging problem, always searching for new terms that could restore our full catalog to their service.

Believe me, this situation is just as difficult for Draft2Digital as it is for you. We also stand to lose a significant portion of our revenue due to this change. More importantly, we regret that we couldn’t give our authors more notice, but unfortunately we were informed quite late in Scribd’s decision-making process. It has been our highest priority throughout these discussions to preserve as many of your books in the service as possible, and we will continue to pursue that goal going forward.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

So. Make of it what you will. But to me it means a lot of steps in the wrong direction for subscription services. It means that if a certain genre gets too many borrows for the subscription price, yet the service has to pay authors, the system is breaking down. Something has to give. De-list titles. Already happening. Pay authors less? On the horizon.

Link to the rest at Write on the River and thanks to Jaye, Deren, Julia and several others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Bob Mayer’s books

PG says this is certainly upsetting, but it’s nothing compared to what happens to authors when their publisher goes bankrupt and both their royalties and their rights drop into a black hole.

Here are some thoughts from Mark Coker:

Scribd, the fast-growing ebook subscription service, today announced dramatic cuts to their catalog of romance and erotica titles.

Effective immediately, I estimate 80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles. Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog.

Based on what I’ve been able to glean, the lower the price and the higher the word count, the better the odds the book will remain. Few books priced $3.99 and above will remain. Scribd is not publicly revealing the formulas for what stays and what goes, probably because much of this is still in flux. They’re cutting all publishers and distributors with the same blunt knife.

It’s ugly. The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books.

. . . .

Bottom line, romance readers – readers we love dearly at Smashwords – are reading Scribd out of house and home. Scribd’s business model, as it’s set up now, simply can’t sustain the high readership of romance readers. They’re not facing the same problem with readers of other genres.

. . . .

While I understand Scribd’s need to stem the bloodletting, and I support their decision for this reason, I don’t think they found the right solution yet. I think a better solution – one which would strike the right balance between the needs of readers, authors, publishers and Scribd – is to introduce tiered subscription options that would allow moderate readers to enjoy the Scribd service at the $8.99 level, but then offer heavier readers another subscription tier – possibly priced at $14.99 or $19.99 or whatever – that wouldn’t break the bank to the detriment of all authors.

Link to the rest at Smashwords 

Smashwords, Subscription

153 Comments to “Is the subscription model in trouble? Scribd dumps romance titles”

  1. Scribd is not designed for readers. It literally cannot survive if readers subscribe to its service (Oyster is in the same boat). Those subscription services depend on non-readers who aspire to be readers, but fail to read much. Think about that for a minute. They can only succeed if people who wish they read more, don’t. That is morally questionable, in my view.

    • Yes, you are right. The Scribd model depends on subscribers not reading much. In contrast, the Amazon model depends merely on how many subscribers there are–the gross revenues.

      • No, the Amazon model relies on writers willing to take low royalties on their books.

        Any subscription model is going to screw one or more of the reader, writer and subscription service, because, if the readers actually take full advantage of the available books, this is what happens.

      • And I think on the books self-publishers offer for free, since all my free titles under the pen name that I use for contemporary romance are available there, while all the rest are marked as ‘not available’ or they are not even displayed there.

    • Scribd and Oyster both go out actively looking for millions each quarter just to stay afloat. Now Scribd is dumping overly read titles. Gee, who didn’t see this one coming?

      It is now only a matter of time before more ADS starts when Amazon has more subscribers.

      • Two death spirals; which one with they choose?

        Support the desires of the most voracious readers and the money flowing in from subscribers is less than money being paid to authors.

        Death spiral number one.

        Restrict what’s available to the most voracious readers and they stop subscribing. With less money coming in from subscribers, there’s not enough to pay the authors.

        Death spiral number two.

        Unless reading subscription services really are like gym memberships. Are they? Do enough people who don’t read much really decide, “I’m going to read more” and sign up for a subscription service? And, when they don’t, in fact, read more, do they stay subscribed because, “This month I really will read”?

        Gym memberships really do work that way. And reading subscription services might work that way, but they also might not. I don’t think the similarity is something to just assume and make the heart of one’s business plan.

    • the Other Diana

      You are 100% correct.

      And their solution makes no sense: Cut the most popular genre. Cut romance by 50%, so they save money. Do they not realize they are going to upset romance readers and they will leave?

      This idea punishes the successful genre because they can’t afford to pay those authors. Backwards, isn’t it? But your analysis is accurate. Subscription services don’t profit if people actually USE them.

    • I guess I have to add it is either the consumer or content producer that gets screwed–not the service provider. If the service provider can’t screw one group or they other, they fold up shop.

    • The other thing that strikes me about Scribd is its not an established bookstore. Prior to its reinvention, it was mostly a repository for third party software docs and pirated books.

      Unlike Amazon, where someone could be a casual consumer and come across KU, sign up for a free trial and end up sticking around, every subscriber on Scribd and Oyster has to be a hardcore reader who’s gone to the service for the sole purpose of binging on the borrowing service.

      This also means that when a writer is removed from the program, they are removed from the ecosystem where at Amazon, if a writer chooses not to be part of KU, their books are still available for sale. Writers can also use KU as a promotional tool for part of their catalog, and Amazon still gets a cut of sales on the books not in the program.

      • “Unlike Amazon, where someone could be a casual consumer and come across KU, sign up for a free trial and end up sticking around, every subscriber on Scribd and Oyster has to be a hardcore reader who’s gone to the service for the sole purpose of binging on the borrowing service.”

        This is where I think the health club analogy breaks down. Plenty of people who hate exercising join health clubs, dutifully pay every month and never use the facilities. How many people who don’t love reading will subscribe to Scribd or anything similar?

        I cancelled my subscription this morning. It was pure gravy for Scribd since I’m way too busy writing to read anywhere near as much as I’d like. But between the ‘bait and switch’ feel to this and the disdain for both romance readers and authors, it was time to go.

    • Exactly, Wm. I know here in the comments, more than once, folks have asked how Scribd could possibly be having success with romance due to the large # of books romance readers like to read a month. (When I was heavy into romance, I easily read a book a day, and sometimes 2 and 3, if I did nothing but read on a lazy day.)

      Well, there it is. They can’t afford to pay authors well for romance (and erotica) due to that volume.

    • Something else to think about:

      Publishers are seeing flat revenues. Revenue is actually down, when you take acquisitions and mergers into account. Well … a big inflow of capital has actually been VC speculation. When Scribd raises $40 million, and then $22 million, they are raising that money primarily for Big 5 publishers. That’s where the VC is ending up, in royalties paid in an unsustainable way.

      When Scribd goes under (or returns to a piracy site), and Oyster follows suit, that’s two streams of free money no longer flowing to publishers. Their flat and declining revenues right now are not an actual indication of reader demand, but also an indication of irresponsible investing. Those accounts are going to close soon, and that will show up in the Big 5’s financials. As will the new Amazon contracts, which are now forcing Amazon to take 30% of their revenue, where before Amazon took close to 0%, and where sales are declining due to higher prices and competition from indies.

      I’m betting 2018 / 2019 are interesting years for this industry.

  2. The subscription model is not in trouble. What is in trouble is the Scribd model. Once again, Amazon is ahead of everyone. In the Amazon subscription model, the total payout to authors depends on the gross revenue from subscriptions split between Amazon and all authors. Since the gross revenue changes each month, the payout to authors changes each month. The Amazon model cannot fail–at least not from the same reason(s) the Scribd model is failing.

    • You don’t understand the Amazon model. The Amazon model is the same as the Scribd model: subsidize an unprofitable business. If authors earned only a share of the subscription revenue, no authors would join. Amazon has to subsidize the payout every month.

      Usually this is hand-waved by fanboys as, Amazon is fine with KU as a money loser because it makes up the profits on other purchases. Obviously not, or it wouldn’t have just completely overhauled the compensation model. Whether or not subscribers’ lifetime value eventually exceeds the cost of KU is a matter to be settled empirically. Either it will or it won’t. None of us will ever see the real numbers unless we work there. But businesses don’t decide that unprofitable lines are OK just because a bunch of Internet commenters thought up a rationalization for them.

      The subscription model for books hasn’t proven itself yet. It may work. It may not. Just because an idea is “disruptive” doesn’t mean it’s not stupid.

      • The Amazon model is the same as the Scribd model: subsidize an unprofitable business.

        A huge difference between Scribd and Amazon is the way they pay authors when a book is borrowed. That makes the models very different.

        Amazon has to subsidize the payout every month.

        How do we know that? What is the monthly subscription revenue?

        • Amazon has to subsidize the payout every month.

          How do we know that? What is the monthly subscription revenue?

          Agreed. Sure, Amazon always announces that they are adding to the author pot each month. That doesn’t mean they are subsidizing KU.

          I wouldn’t be at all surprised if “adding to the pot” is part of their foundational plan, so that they can make KU look better to the authors/publishers in the program. “See!” says Amazon, “There wasn’t enough money in the pot to make it worth your while, so we added more! Isn’t that fantastic of us?”

          A huge difference between Scribd and Amazon is the way they pay authors when a book is borrowed. That makes the models very different.

          Exactly. Paying the full price of the book, versus paying $1.20 per book before the new change to paying per page read.

          One other point: my understanding is that in Amazon’s reports to stock owners, KU is listed under the category ‘Advertizing and Promotion.’

          Which might mean that since the program is considered an expense, it is indeed ‘subsidized.’ Or maybe it’s a really efficient way of advertizing and pays for itself.

          I am not an owner of Amazon stock, so I am less informed on this possibility.

          Btw, I am not criticizing Amazon or KU in my comments above. Just making observations.

          I’ve tried KU in the past (briefly) and I plan to try it again in the future for an interval to be determined, likely just 90 days upon the release of my next 5 titles.

        • Try reading press releases and public statements.

          You need to understand the difference between business models and contract terms.

          • Try reading press releases and public statements.

            There aren’t any that demonstrate “The Amazon model is the same as the Scribd model: subsidize an unprofitable business.”

            You need to understand the difference between business models and contract terms.

            Contracts reflect business plans. The business plan comes first. Hence, important elements of the business plans are contained in contracts.

            An important element of Amazon’s business plan is variable monthly payment from subscription revenues.

            An important element of Scribd’s business plan is fixed payments defined by the list price of the book and royalty rate.

            These are significant differences in the business plans. As such, they are reflected in the subsequent contracts.

      • Actually Scribd pays full price of a novel to the publisher. So does Oyster. Because Amazon titles are in Kindle Select, Amazon only pays a portion of the royalty, not full novel price. Therefore the Amazon model is more sustainable.

        Also, Amazon pays out of a pool of money that is nearly all that’s brought in from the subscription fees. Scribd and Oyster have always operated deep in the red and need to continually seek funding from outside sources to stay afloat.

        • Amazon subsidizes KU every month with a massive addition of funds. When they stop that the collective freakout among authors who cry when the payout drops three cents will shake the rafters.

          In the end, unless you get millions of people to subscribe and forget about it, subscription just means selling books for less.

          • AZ is not susidizing each month. The addition to the basic $3M is simply the way they adjust the payout according to the month’s revenues. KU has approximately 1.5 million subscribers with a monthly gross of $15M. AZ is now paying out $10.8M of that to authors. There is no “subsidy”. It’s a split about 70/30 (authore/amazon) of the gross KU revenue each month.

      • I don’t believe Amazon was losing money on KU under the previous methodology. For May’s $10.8m fund with $1.348 per borrow, that means 8,011,869 paid borrows. Now, if each subscriber borrowed 8 books in the month for their 9.99 subscription, income from subscriptions would be $10,004,821 (assuming all were paid – understandably, some free trials or leftover months from Fire HD purchase, etc., BUT that’s robbing peter to pay paul, so they are either paid or Amazon otherwise got value out of the free months). That would be a loss of about $800,000 plus operating expenses associated with servicing KU MINUS the unquantifiable value they get out of running the service (such as keeping readers who buy other things within their ecosystem – i.e. come to the store to borrow a book and buy a toaster or a television or a new pair of cross-training shoes and a step machine (since the book you borrowed was about exercise – we at least know that Amazon will send them advertisements for exercise machines and sports clothes if they are borrowing books on getting in shape – and Amazon will be getting paid to target those readers by the fitness oriented companies, so let’s not dismiss this unquantifiable value).

        But it’s highly unlikely the average # of monthly borrows is as high as 8 (unless the subscribers are heavily infiltrated by romance readers). Some will borrow and read past 10% on 20 (especially with short fiction), some will borrow/read 2, some will borrow several but not read past 10% on any of them. So let’s say 5 titles borrowed and read past 10% (wholly speculative) as average across subscribers. That would mean income from subscription revenue of 16,007,715 for May, around $6m revenue above borrow payouts (minus operating expenses plus the unquantifiable value of having KU).

        • Ignoring all your completely made-up numbers, you again post an example of how business does Not work the way authors imagine. Amazon is not going to run its business on any ” unquantifiable value.” The notion is absurd. It knows exactly how much cross-sell revenue it earns from each KU borrow. If that figure isn’t high enough, then KU shuts down. No hand waving.

          • Since Amazon has not shut down KU, can we conclude it is earning what it considers a sufficient amount in cross-sell revenue?

            • Or other considerations. Like:

              800K exclusives for both sale and rent is a valuable differentiator.

              Boosting Indie, Inc reduces the power of the Manhattan Syndicate

              Buying reader loyalty.

              Larger user base for Kindle apps and gadgets.

              Increased ebook, ereader, and tablet sales.

              I could see Amazon operating KU at a slight loss for a while. Or, more likely, at near zero profit.

              Money isn’t the only “profit” from a service like KU.

        • I really don’t get this thinking here. I work at a place with a subscription model with a ton of content and a ton of downloads from a ton of users and a producer “revenue share”—sound familiar?

          The revenue share is 10% of our monthly profits from subscription fees divided proportionally among producers by how many unique downloads they received.

          The way that 10% is distributed has no affect on it being only 10% of the profits. The rest of our money is quite safe, thank you.

      • Amazon overhauling the payment system has nothing to do with whether the KU program is making them money or not, since the monthly payment is not going way up or down. How they split that money among authors does not affect their profit or loss at all.

        • If Amazon didn’t expect the compensation model to affect its own overall profit or loss, it wouldn’t have changed it. Amazon doesn’t care if epic fantasy writers feel erotica shorts authors are being unfairly compensated. It cares that the compensation system wasn’t leading to optimal business performance.

          • I see your point now. I was thinking too much about how the money in and money out would not really change on July 1st when this goes into effect. But of course Amazon wants to have more customers in KU and therefore make more money from KU, and ideally this new payment scheme will make for happier customers of KU as well as happier authors of longer works.

  3. So much for Scribd’s CEO’s recent claim that the average user only reads about 1 book a month. If that was true, they would not need to be doing this.

    • I think the ‘average’ romance reader reads more than 30 books a month.

      • As long as the romance readers are averaged out by a bunch of gym-type members who almost never read a book, in order to come up with an overall average of 1 book a month, then again, they would not be needing to do this.

        Obviously, their members as a whole are reading more than one book a month on average.

    • Ashe Elton Parker

      Yeah, they clearly weren’t considering romance readers at all when they set up their payment schedule. I know, when I was heavily into romances at various times, I would have appreciated a subscription model that allowed me to pay one small fee for all the books I could read. I don’t go through the various fantasy genres I read, or any other books I happen to pick up as quickly (though that may in part be because I’m writing my own stuff now too, and that takes up reading time).

      • Ashe, the 13 years I was totally into romances (junkie would adequately cover my reading addiction), the only way I could afford it, given I was mostly unemployed due to chronic illness (hence my “lots of time for reading” situation), was by resorting to used bookstores, which were well-stocked with Harlequin, Silhouette, Avon, and other romance single titles and series titles, as well as the SF I also enjoyed.

        I’d go home with big plastic bags of books. Then come back and turn them in and get new bags of books. No way I could afford (with our household income cut 40% due to my disability) to pay for 60+ new books per month those years –until hubby got big raises. Then, hello, Waldens and B&N and Silhouette home delivery subscriptions.

        That Scribd didn’t realize the voracious habits of romance readers–and romantica/erotica readers–is amazing. Unless they assumed those who read a book a month would end up being numerous enough to subsidize the 10+ books a month romance-reading subscribers.

    • If he takes the median as the average, likely he is right.

      But romance readers are not average. They devour books.

      Scribd will become the subscription service for LitFic.

    • By “average”, they could be referring to mean, median, or mode. It makes a big difference.

  4. I can see why scribd is having trouble, given that their model depends on people buying the service and then not using it much. But it’s hard to imagine that reducing selection is going to help. More selection is a good thing; it means more people signing up and sticking with the service. On the other hand, more selection means more people actually USING the service, which they don’t want. They are in the difficult position of wanting their product to be appealing enough to attract customers but not so appealing that those customers actually use it.

    That said, if you want to attract not-very-prolific readers to your service and keep the prolific readers out, romance is the right genre to exclude. Romance readers are voracious.

    • Sasha Prochenko

      Romance could be written with a script. Just change the names around.

      • the Other Diana

        In addition to insulting all romance authors, you just managed to insult every single romance reader too.

        Since you clearly don’t understand anything about writing romance, please refrain from commenting (about romance).

      • Sasha, your ignorance is showing. Before you embarrass yourself further, you should be aware that many of us in the TPV community — including Mrs. PG — write romance. If you feel a need to slam the genre, go do it somewhere else.

      • Sasha, how many hundreds of romances have you read to come to this conclusion? Now, if by script you mean the general genre formula, that’s one thing. If you’re just being demeaning of a genre that is the most popular among US readers, then you should ponder the genre a bit more, learn, and apologize to those who appreciate romances.

        And if you have read widely in Romance and you still think that: wow.

        I have a degree in English. And I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of romances. While I have noticed plot and dialogue similarities within the catalog of particular authors, which makes sense, across the genre there exists quite a lot of variety of tone, setting, characterization, degree of conflict, darkness or sweetness of the romance, sexual explicitness or subtlety, worldview, length, pacing, etc. A Regency is not like a New Adult romance. A Paranormal is not like a Prairie. An Inspirational is not like an Erotic Thriller romance. A Romantic Suspense is not like a Slice-of-Life. A Medieval Dark is not like an Urban Humorous. A sci-fi space opera romance is not like a series ranch romance.

        Your comment is, to be frank, ridiculous.

        • Don’t feed the troll.

        • What I want to know is what’s a Prairie Romance?

          Is it like…mid- to late- 1800’s and involves wheat harvests and grasshopper infestations and bonnets and digging wells for water and surviving the elements? Sort of…Little Town on the Prairie meets The Wolf and the Dove?

          Count me in!

          • It is a common setting in christian romance, judging by what Amazon pushes my way. 😉

          • Wulfgar! That was one of my early fave reads in my romance-glomming decade plus (a used copy that stayed in the bookshelf beside my nighttable for years, as I reread it a few times.)

            But yeah, the setting tends to be frontiersy town (yes Little House on the Prairie type smaller towns) and tend to be sweet/homey.

            • Wulfgar would make quick work of Almanzo, I should think. (Not that that makes me love Almanzo any less!)

              The Wolf and the Dove was my first romance book. I still have the copy, which is growing into tatters. : D

      • Interestingly, people try that from time to time. Or, more specifically, they take a published romance novel, do some search-and-replacing, and republish it as an original work.

        They are always promptly discovered by romance readers who, it turns out, remember their “formulaic, interchangeable” books quite well. It always ends badly for them.

  5. RealityObserver

    Sigh. Why are there so few businesspeople left in business?

    There’s a show for restaurant rescues. There’s a show for bar rescues. I think there’s even a show for tattoo parlor rescues.

    Perhaps we need a show for publisher rescues…

  6. I took a full look at Mr Coker’s statement and two things jumped out at me:

    1- the insistence that lower payouts are unacceptable
    2- the suggestion that Scribd add higher price tiers at $14 and/or $20.

    Sounds like a discussion that has been ongoing…

    I wonder if this is a ploy to strongarm Indies to accept lower payouts, say 30%? Or maybe a flat fee per page…

    • Yes, let’s foist it all on the reader.

      I see two major players who treat the reader like royalty: Amazon and the Indie Author.

      Those are the two players gobbling up market share.

      Everyone else acts like the reader doesn’t exist, or lives next door to a bookstore, or has a money tree in the back yard.

      • Or like they’re drooling stoners that will buy the first thing they see on the front tables upon entering a bookstore.

      • Hugh, if the reader doesn’t pay their fair share for heavy consumption, then the burden is foisted on the author in the form of lower payouts. Like what’s happening with KU. Pick your poison. I’d like to see Scribd/Oyster find a healthy fair balance where the reader, author and Scribd can all win.

        • If the rental model needs a $20 monthly fee to survive, it won’t survive.

          Note that BAEN routinely *sells* 7+ novels in their monthly bundles for $18. And, buying a la carte, readers can easily get 6-7 novels for $20. Throw in $0.99 promos and voracious readers can feed their appetites for well under $20.

          Rental subscriptions don’t confer property rights so readers rightfully expect a lower price than if they were buying. And since readers are the ones with the power of NO, if something has to give it won’t be the readers that foot the bill.

          My suggestion would be to get ready to lose both Scribd and Oyster as distribution channels. They won’t be around much longer if they keep on paying near-sale payouts and if they don’t they won’t meet your expectations.

          • Everybody has the power of no.

            If prices drop to levels where suppliers go out of business, no more supply.

            • There is no shortage of suppliers is what the tradpub establishment says and they are not wrong.

              What you really mean to say is some *middlemen* may get squeezed out if there isn’t enough margin in the channel. Which is what the Scribd issue is all about: the price needed to feed all the intermediaries in a subscription model at sale-based rates is unacceptable to the majority of readers because they don’t get to own anything.

              So they will say NO and collapse the house of cards.

          • That’s not the point of the convenience of the subscription model.

            On my subscription, I can change my mood and mind on books whenever I want mid-book and grab whichever one I need at whatever moment in my pay cycle, even when I’m out of bucks because the subscription’s done and covered.

            I can binge read an entire series without waiting for next months dollars. It’s the unlimited choice of which to read without having to wait to buy them all first to stash them for later.

        • “Fair share” tells us nothing.

        • Whoa, fair share? I think the readers fair share is what Scribd sold them the subscription at with the promise of all you can read. It’s not the readers’ fault Scribd made promises they clearly can’t keep.

  7. I just shake my head. Did I read this right: … a company is reducing/ravaging a highly popular readers’ genre because … it is too popular? You know there’s a saying about ‘the end times’ that black will be white, and white will be black and the Prince/Princess of Lies will walk the earth and humanity will bow down to him/her.

    I think we must be in the first part where illogic is considered logical, and logic is considered illogical.

    I dont want to put too fine a point on it, but this reminds me of Greece: spend 10 dollars but you only have 8, do that over and over til you cannot support your plant, and the pensioners cannot cash their checks, and the entire island is thrown into limited access to money … because, some, at the top have been ‘experimenting.’

    I’d say to them, Experiment with this: STOP fng with people’s livlihoods. In ancient ethics it was considered a sin against God to mess with the parnassah, a person’s livlihood. I dont think that has changed in terms of human decency toward those one has invited/lured/gathered/aggregated in.

    This is where in the script I’m reading, there is an indie authors org with a bank of lawyers to push back at such, HARD.

    • There is nothing particularly unusual about trying to discourage customers whose preferences and payment behavior make them undesirable, nor in discontinuing what is at first glance a product the market wants.

      I have seen licensed products cancelled for all of those reasons and many others, including for literally being demanded too strongly by the market at release. I know it sounds stupid, but there was actually very sound logic behind it.

      • True.
        Some customers you don’t want.
        (Amazon has been known to ban serial returners.)
        But, as a rule, they tend to be outliers.

        Voracious romance readers are not outliers; they are the heart of the genre.

    • Did I read this right: … a company is reducing/ravaging a highly popular readers’ genre because … it is too popular?

      Sure. Low prices are always popular, but are often not profitable.

  8. I made only peanuts from Scribd with one book, so I see this with calm. It will probably drive more suscribers into KU, from where I make much more income. I only hope that their competition’s obvious problems won’t encourage Amazon to drive KU compensation lower.

    Slightly off topic, check your Kindle “Month to Date Unit Sales” and the new graph on the Sales Dashboard, people! I am delighted to learn how many pages of each book are read today in the different countries. This data is more detailed and helpful than I expected. Thank you, Amazon!

    • Their site is down. I think we broke it.


    • It’s a per-book report?
      Tres cool!

      • Per book and per marketplace. It’s not broken here (in Europe.) So far people have read 2060 pages of my books, and I know which books, on which marketplace. Hooray!

        • the Other Diana

          I see the new graph, but no reads yet. (I only have a handful of shorts enrolled anyway).

          Does Book Report work with it yet? Or did he need another couple of days to update his software?

          • Book Report has just updated, not sure how well it works yet. You have to estimate the borrows in Settings before borrows will appear on the “Today” page, but all that “income” is pure speculation at this point, of course.

          • Patricia Sierra

            Gulp. I just updated for the last 90 days and I have zero pages read across the board. Swell.

            • Patricia Sierra

              Replying to myself here. Have now realized I was doing it wrong, though still don’t know how to do it right. When I look at individual titles, it is showing pages read. That’s tedious and can’t be the right way to use this tool.

        • So, in return for exclusivity, KDP select now offers (somewhat) better visibility *and* analytics? Plus a substitute for permafree.

          And the competition just kicked out a bunch of their most avid readers…

          Oh, dear.

    • Of course, it would be awesome if somehow we could also tell how many borrows for each book so that we could get an average of how many pages read per reader.

      • Nirmala, if you download your payments report and open it as an Excel spreadsheet, there’s a tab at the bottom that says “Orders Report”. There’s a column there called “KU/KOLL Units” that should tell you the borrows. Is that what you were looking for?

  9. Notice that ‘free’ and cheap will be saved, as well as longer works. This looks like their way of removing the shorter (chapter as a full priced book to raise the count?) higher priced books.

    They could have tried Amazon’s ‘by the page read’, but I don’t think they have Amazon’s methods for keeping track of such things.

    It should be fun to see how the ADS crowd spins this as Amazon’s fault.

  10. A question for all of you who have free books in Scribd; do you plan to leave them in or will you remove them from Scribd?

    • the Other Diana

      I just tried to remove mine, but D2D’s dashboard isn’t allowing me to remove them. I emailed them to pull my books.

      My erotic romances were paid only. Yet according to the news (and some authors), their erotica was allowed into the subscription part of the store.

      Different rules for different folks, I guess.

      • I can’t decide what to do with mine free books.
        I like the exposure, but I don’t like the fact that readers have to pay subscription to read my free books, which means that Scribd is profiting every time somebody reads my free stories (since they don’t have to pay me for the borrow), and yet, they aren’t willing to offer not even one of my not-free books to their subscribers.

        • I think every eyeball is worth something. If the book is free anyway, then someone who stopped and read it on scribd is that much more likely to slow down and stop on one of your other books when they’re browsing another site.

          This often happens to me with SF anthologies. I’ll read something exceptional (to me) and actively seek out other works by that writer.

          It’s the same reason that Coke will actually pay for some of the retail signage for a store provided it has their logo on it. Exposing people to the brand and then reinforcing it is huge.

          • Pirate websites profit from eyeballs reading your books without paying you.

            How is Scribd profiting from your free books without paying any different? Especially if they refuse to carry your non-free titles?

            (Just rabble rousing. 😉 )

      • Diana – not sure if you’re running into the user error I was. You go to your My Books section of the publisher dashboard, find the book you want to opt out and click to bring it up within the publisher dashboard. You’ll notice the book cover as one of the topmost left items. Just above that cover is big text of View Book and you follow that line all the way across to the right, you’ll see “Edit Book” with a dropdown arrow. Under the dropdown arrow, you’ll see publishing – this is where I kept repeating my user error each time I come back to D2D after not working in the dashboard for a long time. When the book is live on a platform, it has a big green check in the box next to it. Just like you had to add that big green check to put it on the platform to begin with. So my brain kept saying “uncheck that box!” and nothing happens. What you need to do instead is click the blue text just below the platform that says “Remove this listing.” It will ask you to confirm, do so. Then, whether I need to or not, I’ve been clicking the Apply Changes button at the very bottom and confirming again.

        Hope this was the issue and not that they are either overloaded with requests or trying to stall requests. Good luck!

        • the Other Diana

          I got as far as page where you select (or deselect) the store fronts. It won’t let me deselect anything, but it will let me select stores I didn’t choose before.

          I emailed them. Hopefully they can fix it.

    • I was already planning to pull mine and replace it, but now, I’m sitting back and rethinking a few things.

  11. Here’s something I don’t see mentioned anywhere yet: “Romance readers” are not only passionate readers of romantic novels, they are cross-genre and avid readers of everything.

    They “look to reading” — be it news, nonfiction, escapist novels, literary fiction.

    Many people are “ex-romance-junkies” (I’m using this vernacular fondly) but they never stop READING… it’s their gateway drug.

    Scribd’s particular blind spot– and you can’t help but consider it sexist in its cluelessness about who reads— is that they think they’re simply getting rid of a pesky romance-genre financial problem. It’s not occurring to them that the romance-lovin’ subscriber was also borrowing their non-romance titles, regularly.

    There are always older models to draw on for understanding this phenom. Romance is “Playboy/Penthouse” for women. Did anyone ever accuse Playboy readers of only reading sex mags? No. It was seen as a huge catalyst for reading in general.

    The old-school periodical business always sold a lot of gossip, sex mags, true crime, etc.– to millions of of readers who ALSO bought the New York Times, National Geographic, The Economist— and NYTimes bestselling books, the highbrow lists.

    Digital readers/listeners are the same. They like their high and low culture, they aren’t “one thing.”

    Literacy educators know this cycle well. The teacher gets students reading something they have high drive for— no snobbery. Comix, porn, recipes, car manuals, secret confessions, who cares. Once they are reading for pleasure or self-interest, it’s viral.

    To ignore that in a business vision for a reading renaissance is a “bonfire of vanities,” eh?

    • Susie Bright! Fangirl *SQUEE*!

      But seriously, yes, on everything you said. When I was homeschooling, I used manga bribes to get my son to read.

      • Back in the day, comics were the gateway to SF.

        • Dude, I TRIED to get him to read Spider-man, but I’ve been bluntly informed by both son and nieces that comics and manga ARE NOT the same. 😆

          • Felix J. Torres

            Try the post-ZH LEGION. Great SF storylines, manga art.
            (Or the Waid IMPULSE.)
            LSH is very kid friendly but with serious meat.
            THE WHITE TRIANGLE SAGA is a classic.

            • 😀 Tried those too. So far I’ve only managed to push the Titans (Teen and otherwise thanks to Cartoon Network) and Sandman.

              • Tough crowd.
                (Especially since LSH had their own TV show for two years.)

                Have you considered a genetic test? Hospital baby swaps do happen… 😀

                • Nah, he looks exactly like his dad at the same age, and he has my sarcastic ‘tude and love of all things chocolate. I think we’re good. 😀

    • It’s not occurring to them that the romance-lovin’ subscriber was also borrowing their non-romance titles, regularly.

      They don’t WANT people borrowing the books. Actually borrowing the books costs them money. They just want people to sign up and allow them to debit their credit card every month. Seriously.

    • Fairy tales and Greek mythology were my gateway “read-drugs” to SF and romance, I guess. 😀

      And having discovered manga in 2009, I read romance (shoujo/josei), SF, and horror. I guess I got wired early on for “genre.”

  12. If you write today and don’t get caught up in this, you will pull ahead of most authors.

  13. When I started practicing dentistry almost 30 years ago, I became involved in a reimbursement plan called “Capitation.” It was “insurance” where families or individuals paid a set fee every month, then the company took a percentage of that fee and passed the rest on to me. Their advertising to patients stated that they ‘covered’ 100% of every dental procedure known to man.

    When I first started with them, I was actually getting checks for a little more than what I would have billed for services on capitation patients that month. But very soon that corrected itself and I was getting less than what I would have billed, by about 20%. Then another provider quit and I got a large influx of new patients. I started making more money, but very soon I was doing way more work than I was getting paid for. It got to the point where I was getting only 40-50% of the work I was doing. So I quit.

    It strikes me that there are similarities with the subscription models (both of the ones talked about above). Everything is dependent on utilization, or lack thereof. As long as no one is using the service (also known as ‘reading’), everything’s golden for the provider (the authors) and the company running the service (Amazon or Scribd/Oyster). As soon as people start reading, either the company or the author gets screwed. If it’s the author getting screwed, they’ll quit. If it’s the company getting screwed, they’ll either shift risk to the author, try to charge more for the service (something approximating what it actually costs them) or limit the utilization of the service, which will cause subscribers to quit.

    In that capitation plan, the company tried allowing me to collect my lab fees from the patient in addition to the capitation fee they paid me, but it wasn’t enough. 40-50% was ridiculous, but so was 60-70% which was about as good as it could get. Theoretically, when I finished a patient’s treatment, all they should need was routine maintenance (less costly to me) in the future, but it didn’t work that way. After I finished a treatment plan, the patients dropped the “insurance” and new ones took their place on my roles.

    I really don’t think you’re going to get people who sign up for one of these services to choose to read less. The best way is fee-for-service, or in this case, fee-for-ebook, or so it seems to me.

    • the Other Diana

      Fee for book…so just buy the books?

      One thing I disagree with- when readers aren’t reading- the authors DO lose out on $ as well as building a readership.

      • Yeah, that’s what I was trying to say. When the fees for books are low ($0.99-$4.99), if you’re not a voracious reader I think you might be better off just buying a couple books a month instead of paying the subscription fee. If you are a voracious reader, it seems like maybe you’re going to break the bank on a subscription model like Scribd, and on Amazon the per-read amount paid to authors is going to go down. OTOH, if it’s visibility that is the goal, then the compensation issue is less important. Depends on the goal, I guess…

        ETA: in my above post, I said that authors win if no one is reading their books, but I meant that the system itself is not being overutilized. Authors obviously can’t win if no one borrows their books. No borrows=no pay…

        • I think the ideal user is an off-on voracious reader like me. I average out nicely for them and I get my book whenever I want, whether I have extra dollars or not, but there are months I don’t have time/energy to read much at all and months where I binge read everything I can get my hands on and, in short, make myself not want to give up the subscription even though I know there will be months I don’t use it at all.

    • Adverse selection will kill any insurance scheme.

  14. Amazon and Scribd aren’t in the same business.
    Scribd gambled on a subscription service as baseline business, with little data to plan direction. Amazon launched a marketing program where its customers pay for unlimited coupons, with the goal (like most coupons) of getting people to return to and keep using the rest of the store.
    Scribd revenue doesn’t convert to support ‘popularity.’
    Amazon doesn’t care how many coupons are used, because they have infinite bandwidth and limitless voluntary contributors to offer the rewards in the coupon-redemption program.
    Amazon didn’t need to change the payout system out of ‘fairness’ to the volunteer contributors, but rather to ensure that the coupon users feel that the rewards justify the cost of participating in the Amazon marketing program.
    For those volunteer reward contributors (authors), they get data to determine whether its worth their while to contribute to KU as part of their own marketing program.

    Scribd customers? What added value can they get other than yet another book?
    KU customers? They can browse daily deals and also-bots and a dozen other marketing programs, so they find new treasures every day.
    The issues in the failure of the Scribd model have zip-all to do with how Amazon will judge the success of KU as just one of its many marketing programs.

    • This.
      KU is a suplement to KDP. You can leave KU (or cycle titles through it) without leaving KDP.

      KU as analogous to Groupon?
      Worth considerstion.

  15. It seems to me the best method would be to go back to the old (print) subscription libraries. The service buys the copy, the author gets paid, period. The library user can only check out copies that are available, so if a book is popular more copies are purchased. The library might have tiers of service, so readers could pay more if they want to have more simultaneous checkouts, first dibs on new books, more monthly checkouts. Or, since they can get this data, different “bands” of available books for different readers like voracious romance readers (not to be confused with Vermicious Knids….). The library might also only purchase a copy if a certain number of people specifically request it.

    Any business model that depends on someone (author, reader) being taken for a ride will eventually fail. If authors don’t get paid they won’t make their books available, and if readers can’t get the books they want, they won’t subscribe.

  16. Sounds like Scribd has written all romance readers and writers off as Vermicious Knids. Glad I’ve as yet got no dog in the subscription-hunt.

  17. “But the sign said all you can eat!”

    Romance buffs—remorseless reading machines:


    (Please note: I am not mocking romance readers. I’m more Homer-like than anyone I know.)

    • The comparison fits. They don’t really intend to give you all you can eat. That wouldn’t be profitable. But they do like you to THINK you will have all you can eat. 🙂

  18. Excerpts from Smashwords CEO Mark Coker about the Vorgon attack:

    Recent Annihilation of Earth

    The Vorgon Empire, a fast growing alien race, today announced that they destroyed most of the Earth. It’s ugly. Bottom line, romance readers – readers we love dearly at Smashwords – live on the planet Earth…

    I remain a big fan of the Vorgons, but today’s news is especially disconcerting to those of us working to promote a diverse ecosystem of multiple bookselling options.  Romance represents a huge portion of ebook readership, so anything that harms romance authors and their readers (like destroying them with laser bombs) is not good for the future of publishing.

    While I understand the Vorgon’s insatiable need for destruction, and I support their decision for this reason, I don’t think they found the right solution yet…

    Today’s news is not necessarily good news for the authors of other genres and categories either, because most readers of other genres also live on Earth.

    There are a few silver linings to today’s announcement of Vorgon slaughter:

    1.  With less writers surviving the destruction, those writers still alive will face dramatically less competition.

    2.  Having already destroyed most of the Earth, the Vorgon’s have a smaller target for future attacks.  Although I’m disappointed to see so much of the Earth gone, I understand the Vorgon’s hate for all Earthly life forms.  But I’m optimistic that the Vorgon’s will eventually shift their focus to destroying other planets.  They NEEDED to destroy at least a large part of Earth before they would continue on through the galaxy.

    With today’s Vorgon news, many naysayers will jump on the Vorgons and similar evil alien empires with a big fat, “I TOLD YOU SO!”  The naysayers can have their day in the sun today, but I’d caution critics to understand that the story’s not over yet.

  19. Seems like what people have been saying about subscription models being unsustainable might just be true.

    • The whole model would collapse and we could all get back to selling our work for honest returns if indies had the guts, even for one lousy season, people!, to pull out of KU/Select and go wide.

      Take a deep breath and do it.

      Watch the distributors realize that their scribbling suppliers can’t be ground down to working for pennies.

      It takes at least a year to write a really good historical novel, plus research and possibly travel. More for non-fiction.

      No way we’re slaving for .5 cents per ‘page read.’ Without KU and without Select, our readership is growing steadily across platforms. It takes time and it takes work, but you keep your leverage.

      btw, I’m not sure what the Vorgon parody of Coker’s message serves. As far as we’re concerned, he’s doing a good job and we’re making money via Smashwords. If there is ADS, is there also MCDS?

      Also, glad to see some people better versed on romance readership than I am nail the ‘drug’ and ‘addiction’ aspect of this genre. Happy to know that romance and erotica’s ‘high’s’ act as ‘gateway drugs,’ to other kinds of reading, but maybe Scribd just decided it couldn’t afford to compete in two industries at once—publishing and health care?

      • My husband always cracks me up about this paradigm–“Why did you have to pick two of the craziest industries around to work in? Publishing and health care?”

        And he’s spot-on.

        • Deb, thought you were joking until I checked out what an amazing career path you’ve carved. Quite impressed.

      • The current estimate floating around of 580 microdollars per 170-word baseline “page” (or as I prefer to put it: 3 microdollars per word) means a 70,000 word novel delivers over $2 per read.

        That is hardly unfair for a *rental* fee.

        It also (kinda) suggests the KU customer base averages 350,000 words read per month; 7 short novels or 15 novellas or 35 shorts. And those are full read equivalents.

        If the Scribd customer base is anything like that then the real surprise is that they’ve lasted 18 months at those rates, paying full price for books abandoned at 10% or higher.
        An active grazer could easily 50 payouts in a month just finding something they like.

        (For those that haven’t heard: there is at least one report floating around of what the new KU payout rate (and baseline page size) might be.

        The DIGITAL READER BLOG has a post on it:


  20. They dropped all my titles but kept the free first-in-a-series novel. Uh no. If they can’t help me sell the rest of the books in the series, they don’t get the first (especially since they charge for their subscriptions and then give those people my free book). I ended up pulling everything and apologizing to readers in a newsletter. Sigh.

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