Scribd, a company offering unlimited access to half a million e-books for $8.99 a month, is announcing that it has raised $22 million in additional funding.
The round was led by Khosla Ventures, with Khosla partner Keith Rabois (previously an executive at PayPal, LinkedIn, Slide, and Square) joining the Scribd’s board as an observer. Asked via email about how the subscription business will play out for books, Rabois noted that the model has “already transformed the way we consume other forms of content.”
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“With over 80 million users in nearly every country, the Scribd team is well positioned to grow to a massive global audience,” he said.
Launched in 2007 and incubated at Y Combinator, Scribd started out as a document-sharing service. While it still supports those features (and we still use it at TechCrunch when we want to embed documents in our posts), its focus shifted last year to subscription e-books, where competitors include startup Oyster and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited service.
Echoing Rabois’ comment, co-founder and CEO Trip Adler told me that Scribd now reaches more than 80 million unique visitors each month. He didn’t specify how many of those visitors are actually paying subscribers, but he did say subscriptions have been growing an average of 31 percent each month since the service was officially unveiled in October 2013.
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Asked if he thinks the subscription model has now proven itself in the e-book world, Adler replied, “From my perspective it’s proved out. From the industry perspective, there are still people at both ends of the spectrum.” He noted that Scribd is now working with two of the big five publishers (HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — they’re mostly offering older “backlist” titles).
“I can’t say where we are with the other ones, but they’re all going really well,” he added. “By the end of , we’ll be able to basically say almost all of the significant players in the industry are on-board.”
Link to the rest at TechCrunch
PG says this is a rare occurrence – a prominent VC firm making an investment in a company that competes with Amazon. The investment is not very large, but it will keep an ebook subscription business operating and competing with Amazon for at least a few more years.
And, yes, PG has his doubts that standard Big Publishing contracts made adequate provisions to allow publishers to enter into this business in the way they seem to be proceeding.