Scribd vs. Amazon, Libraries, Oyster and eReatah

Don and Derek

The Book Kahuna and his Corgi, Derek!

http://www.inc.com/stephanie-meyers/E-book-subscription-startups-libraries.html

I recently read the article on the Inc.com web site, by Stephanie Myers: Why Are E-book Subscription Start-Ups So Hot?  This article introduced a new player to the E-book subscription marketplace in the form of Scribd.  Scribd is a subscription service that is catering to people with the ability to read their E-books on iPhones, iPads, Android devices and web browsers.  This new subscription service costs $8.99 per month and is touted as yielding millions of selections to choose from.  In her article, Ms. Myers also lays out the argument that I put forth in a previous blog post:

https://thebookkahuna.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/subscriptions-are-us-oyster-vs-ereatah/

that subscription services are in direct competition with the public library.

In Ms. Myers article, she expounds the fundamental reason why people are not interested in getting their E-books from the public library.  The main crux of the argument against people getting their E-books from the library seems to center around the initial setup that the patron has to go through to become an E-book download subscriber from the library.  In thinking about this I thought the arguments for this consternation at getting E-books from the public library did not hold water.

For the most part, one of the basic parts of getting an E-book from the public library is having Adobe Reader on your computer.  This is such a basic necessity in any computing environment in the year 2013, I would think that most people already have Adobe Reader on their computer or, if not, quickly download a copy from Adobe.com in the initial setup for a laptop or desktop computer.  There are so many different documents that need to be downloaded in PDF form (most instruction manuals for any appliance), that there is almost no way to function in a computer environment without having the ability to open and read PDF files with Adobe Reader.  Once you have your computer or reading device setup for E-book downloads from the library, this process would be a pretty streamlined and straightforward activity without much hassle or inconvenience.

My experience with taking out an E-book from the from the library has not occurred yet, but I have been told that if you have a library card with a number code, then that number is your account access and taking out an E-book and downloading it would almost be akin to renewing a print book that you already had out on loan.  I do not think that the argument about the public library is one that is going to really raise much of a competitive issue going forward.  There are so many people in the United States who never enter the public library building in their town, that the library will not be a major player in this race for consumer content dollars.

The real test of how well the subscription E-book Services will do will revolve around how many titles the individual subscription services have to offer and are these titles newly published within the last year or so.  The battle between Amazon, Scribd, Oyster, eReatah, and any other E-book subscription service that begins operations in the near future will be won or lost based on the following criteria:

  1. What service has the biggest catalog to offer?
  2. Does the consumer get perceived value for their dollars?
  3. Are there any future possible discounts available to a subscription consumer?
  4. Will the consuming public opt for renting the E-book rather than owning the E-book?
  5. What publishers will align with which subscription services?

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As I said in my previous blog post, I am a technophile and feel that any innovation in the E-book distribution and dissemination to consumers will be a positive in the long run.  Only time will tell what services will be left standing but since the public library and Netflix are examples of successful content-lending distribution centers, there will be room for a myriad of players in the content subscription market.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Scribd vs. Amazon, Libraries, Oyster and eReatah

  1. This entire question is completely moot for small press publishers, let alone “indie” or self-publishers. I run a small press. I’ve been rejected by both Oyster and Scribd’s program, who have both informed me that they’re only taking ebooks from large publishers for the time being (although Oyster is taking all of Smashwords’ Premium Catalog, to add insult to injury. An Oyster rep actually called me on the phone to explain this!). EReatah doesn’t even have any information on its website as to how publishers can request be included in their program, so they’re a closed club. As for libraries–OverDrive pretty much has a monopoly on library ebook borrowing, and OverDrive also does not deal with small presses (they rejected me, too). I am in Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 program but I have yet to find our books in a library catalog that uses them.

    So, these lending and subscription services basically are outlets for big corporate publishers or big aggregators, and no one else. If readers want small press ebooks, they’ll have to buy them the old-fashioned way.

    • Inanna:

      You have to crawl before you can walk. This is the infancy of the innovations. We can’t expect it to be fully congealed and ready for all players when the venture is just beginning. Give it a little time to shake out. Things may be different in a year or two…

  2. Yes, it will be even worse. My company released its first book in 2007. The number of self-published books has increased more than 400% since then, and that’s only the ones that Bowker tracks by ISBN. It doesn’t count the thousands of books on Smashwords, et al, with no ISBNs, or ANY Kindle-exclusive books (because Amazon assigns an ASIN to them). In response to the massive tidal wave of horrendously bad self-published books flooding the market, readers, reviewers and retailers are closing ranks. They’re finding all kinds of ways to filter out books, many of them tried-and-true criteria like the size of the company, the press run, and your budget (NetGalley, for example, charges exorbitant monthly fees).

    I wish small press publishers would stand up to this kind of discrimination instead of just rolling over and saying, “oh, well, they’ll get around to us.” We’re at the forefront of the ebook revolution. My company’s titles were in the Kindle store in December 2007, a month after it opened, and in other major new ebook markets (Apple iBookstore, Google Play) the day they launched. Our titles used to get legitimate pre-pub reviews from *Publishers Weekly* and *Library Journal* — until *Publishers Weekly* started its “indie only” special pay-to-play section, PW Select, and then the doors slammed shut. One of our titles had gotten a *starred* review from PW but now we were relegated to the “indie” dirt pile. And it’s getting worse every day. *Everyone* is jumping on the pay-to-play, “author services” self-publishing gravy train. Aspiring authors are the industry’s new gold mine.

    Am I bitter? Yeah, just a bit. I write guest blog posts and place paid ads now because even book bloggers who reviewed our books in the past won’t give me the time of day. More and more bloggers have slapped “NO SELF-PUBLISHED BOOKS” at the top of their review policies and then post reviews of 30-year-old classics. It’s very, very frustrating.

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