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Can Scribd Become a New eBook Subscription Savior for Indie Authors?

Posted on 2013-Dec-20

by BB eBooks Staff

Amazon vs. eBook Subscription Services


Apart from Amazon’s stealing the limelight with their countless programs designed to help publishers and authors get their books on its store, elsewhere the headline-grabbing eBook subscription services seem to emerge as the promising future for eBook lovers and at the same time compete against one another to drive traffic to their catalogs. Being in the No.1 spot could mean they succeed in convincing avid or curious eBook readers to spend more money on a monthly subscription fee. Without further ado, we stay focused to presenting how the services could aid discoverability for indie authors.

Smashwords’ Payout System for Oyster


Early in October, Smashwords reached a deal with Oyster according to a blog by GigaOM that authors would earn 60 percent whenever an Oyster subscriber read more than 10 percent of the book. The writer of the article quoted Mark Coker’s statement. Two months later, Smashwords inks another deal with one of Oyster’s biggest competitors, Scribd. All the interesting numbers are layered on the top of the introductory paragraph: Scribd’s 80 million monthly readers, subscription fee of $8.99, and the number of Smashwords authors and publishers as high as 70,000+. In the blog, Mark Coker refers to the two-part blog that he explains how eBook subscription services would play out. He also revealed that 200,000 eBooks were in the process of being shipped to Oyster. Although it cannot be found anywhere on Smashwords blog about the number of indie eBooks that will be supplied, Scribd announces 225,000+ indie eBooks as a result of the new deal.

Same Rates Applied to Scribd


Mark Coker named Scribd as:

“one of the leading examples of the new breed of eBook subscription services that aim to do for eBooks what Netflix did for filmed entertainment and what Spotify did for streamed music.”

Using the same royalty standard as Oyster, Smashwords authors will earn the same 60% rate of their book price if the subscriber reads past 30% of the entire book. This is the general first tier that most services tend to require; however, if you are uncertain how often one subscriber will want to read the entire book to benefit authors’ sales, the second tier will solve the issue. If a number of people read your book even less than 30%, Scribd will generate a full sale based on the number of subscribers who “browse.”

Free 1-Year Trial for Scribd


The fun does not stop there as there is a hint what Scribd promises to offer indie authors. Creating a special section for indie authors is a part of the plan and, more exclusively, giving away a one-year trial to Smashwords authors. To be eligible for the special treat, authors are instructed to opt in the program before January 1 as the Scribd distribution channel will show up in Smashwords Dashboard’s Channel Manager.

Scribd’s own blog quoted one of Smashwords authors, Quinn Loftis, who said, “I’m thrilled to learn about the partnership between Smashwords and Scribd… I look forward to distributing all my titles to Scribd via Smashwords because I appreciate the opportunity to reach more readers. My fans will appreciate the incredible value represented by Scribd’s subscription service.” The blog post is short but boasts of the Smashwords-supplied 225,000 eBooks in the catalog as previously mentioned.

Pirated PDFs and False Ownership Concerns

While Scribd blog merely attracts one response to ping the URL, Smashwords openly invites critical voices congratulating the profitable deal and raising more questions about Scribd’s piracy policy. R.M. Prioleau stands firm in her belief that Scribd needs a stricter security measure to look into pirated eBooks that are illegally reproduced in PDF format. Jason Matthews recounts his annoyance being asked by Scribd whether he owns the copyright of his books (ed: Amazon has a similar practice). To make matters worse, sales are not the strong point there yet he is curious to observe what the new deal will play out.

Mark Coker’s Business Talk


Mark Coker gives his reason about piracy that although it may be unstoppable and many vendors including his have still been fighting it, he’d rather pay more attention to Scribd’s ‘ethical backbone’ how they reward indie authors. Speaking of the widespread popularity of piracy, the author’s concern as a content creator is not new considering public websites’ offer that users can upload freely. If the businesses choose the shut down the business or authors remove their books from the shelf, content will never have been seen the light day as does the opportunity to connect with readers. He further asserts how authors’ point of contact can play a significant role in promoting their books and convince fans to buy rather than ‘steal’.

Fighting Copyright Infringement


Does Mark’s response make sense? Apparently so but you be the judge. Unfortunately, the follow-up feedback constitutes the lack of trust how Scribd handles pirated books. Alianne further requests Smashwords to impose stricter controls before the new deal is put in place in a few weeks. Poor sales is another challenge that authors remain doubtful about switching to the eBook subscription platform. Last but not least, Michael positively shares how Scribd handles copyright infringement according to ‘takedown notices’ by removing the books in question. When the takedown notice is filed and your book has been removed from the system, to upload the same book requires that you prove the ownership of the content.

To report pirated content, you can visit Scribd Support Desk and file a DMCA Copyright Infringement Takedown Notification last updated on February 14, 2009. The more recent article about the introduction to copyright and The Digital millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) can also found here for your reference.

Indie’s Compassionate Buddy

Taking a big part of the indie community, Smashwords makes sure it has remained independent and resourceful for its authors. From its early collaboration with several vendors—Apple, Barnes & Noble, Diesel ebook Store, Kobo, Sony Readr Store, and Baker & Taylor’s Blio—Smashwords is spreading its wings to supply their eBooks for Oyster and Scribd. Although it remains to be seen whether the eBook subscription model can predict the future of reading, next year’s competition will be a phenomenon to watch due to enormous addition of new eBooks to be automatically fed into paid subscribers’ devices. While piracy concern can heighten indie authors’ resistance to publishing their content on certain platforms, it seems this issue must be responsibly monitored and tackled by distributors rather than leaving it to authors who have spent their quality time crafting their content. Stealing one’s work to be illegally distributed is bad enough, but stealing it with the intent of selling it is much worse.

Label: Self-Publishing

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