Booked til Tuesday

Life, Law & Libros

Discussion: Subscription Reading Services

6 comments
I attended a panel at BEA about reading subscription services. It had reps from three different companies: one dealt primarily in foreign language literature, one had a small catalog geared toward early childhood development and education, and the third was Scribd, one of the sites working to become the Netflix of books. (I found it amazing how much the Scribd site has changed since its "document stash" days when I was in college.)


There are a handful of other subscription services out there--Entitled, Oyster and Kindle Unlimited come to mind. I've never looked too closely into any of them,  mainly because I prefer hard copies when given the choice and, depending on the month, can read 10 books or zero. But I would love to see "Netflix for books" turn into a huge thing. I would love to hear everyone talking about binge reading series and authors like we binge-watch shows.

I found out publishers are a little wary of the subscription model at the panel. Most of the Q&A session revolved around how publishers get paid (only if a subscriber gets so far in or finishes the product? a percentage of the company's monthly profits or a straight unit price?) and whether it's a viable model. Like other subscription models, sites may count on having a majority of subscribers who come down off the initial "grabby hands" high to only read one or two books a month, or they'll try to nudge subscribers toward content that costs them less.

Even with all that, if Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and everything else can do it with movies and TV, I don't see why it can't work with books, provided we have the literary culture to support it. I wonder if more people might be sucked into books and audiobooks and comics if they suddenly had a world of options and didn't have to think about cost. (That's why we all have mile-long saved shows on Netflix, right? The SHINY!)

What do you guys think about subscription reading? I know some of you already have more ARC's and eARC's than you can handle, but what about those with Audible memberships? If the content were comparable, do you think it would be worth it to switch your subscription elsewhere and get ebooks, too? If you just read for fun, is this something you would try?

Also, here's a quick breakdown of the big three based on their home pages, in case you're interested:

E-books: yes
Audiobooks: yes
Free trial: 30 days
Price: $9.99/month
Tagline: "Unlimited Reading. Unlimited Listening. Any Device. Enjoy the freedom to explore over 800,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks on any device for just $9.99 a month."

E-books: yes
Audiobooks: yes
Free trial: 30 days
Price: $8.99
Tagline: "Read like you own every book in the world. Unlimited books, audiobooks & comics · Unparalleled discovery · Any device · $8.99/month"

E-books: yes
Audiobooks: no
Free trial: 14 days
Price: $9.95/month
Tagline: "Subscribe to Oyster Unlimited and get access to over 1 million books or buy any book in our store."


Edit 7/1/15:
Just came across an excellent Publishers Weekly article: "Scribd Dramatically Reduces Romance List." It sums up the potential "problem" of romance readers for subscription models.
Much like health club memberships, the e-book subscription model is based on the presumption of moderate use. Romance fans buck this assumption, however, and this, Coker explained, has become an issue. “Bottom line, romance readers are reading Scribd out of house and home,” he wrote. This problem, Coker added, is not happening with other genres.

6 comments :

  1. The only one that I have tried so far is Scribd, where I happened to find an additional two month trial on a blog so I gave it whirl. My three months is nearly up and I can really say that I think I'm going to be a subscriber. I listen to quite a few audiobooks while I'm cleaning and puttering around the house and Scribd is fantastic for there selection. I'm a bit indecisive with audiobooks and also sometimes I just don't feel like listening to them and Scribd has such an awesome selection that I can bounce back and forth between my whims. I think Audible is really expensive for my needs so this is the perfect alternative. I also might do the try for Kindle Unlimited and see how that one is!

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    1. I am wondering whether some Audible subscribers might switch over. I think Audible's selection is more complete, but it's something like $15/month for one audiobook? That definitely makes $9-$10/month unlimited look good.

      Let me know what you think of Kindle Unlimited if you try it! (At a glance, it looks like a ton of their ebooks are pulled from the self-published ranks, but I didn't look closely at their audiobook offerings.)

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  2. Here's my thing... why should I sign up for a subscription service when my library is free? It's a lot harder to find movies these days - redbox is limited, libraries have them too but the selections are still limited. But books... libraries are full of them! ;) I mean, I can get a physical book, an audiobook, an ebook, basically literature in any format, for free from the library. Why pay for that service?

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    1. I'm definitely with you on the cheapskate front; I love using my library because it's a cost-effective way to feed my book addiction. And if your library has a great selection of everything, I agree, there's no reason to consider a subscription service.

      Unfortunately, not all libraries have great selections, or collections that coincide with your tastes--the same problem you cited with movies. I love my library, but there are plenty of books on my TBR list they don't have and likely won't get. (And it's not completely free for me. I get a card because I tutor there, but otherwise I'd be paying an annual fee since I live in a different town with no library.) That said, I probably won't become a subscriber for now, but I can see it working for others. :)

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  3. I love Scribd. I didn't start using it until they added comics, but it's been well worth my money. I can just bounce around to any book in their collection. It really is just like I own it. I have been kind of disappointed by their romance offerings, but I'm loving reading their comics and listening to their audiobooks.

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    1. I am tempted to try it, if only for the comics and audiobooks (which are especially limited at my library), but I don't want to waste my free 30 days until I'll have time to actually use it. If that PW article is anything to go by, I'd expect the romance offerings in most subscription models to shrink if enough of their readers love that genre. Apparently romance readers devour too many romances too quickly and make the subscription model unviable. ;)

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