Ebook Subscription Service Changes in the News

Recently there has been a lot of coverage about changes in ebook subscription services. Scribd, touted as the Netflix of books for its low monthly fee and unlimited ebook consumption, announced that it was dropping many of its romance and erotica titles because of high consumption. Yes, you read that correctly – the most popular titles in the most popular genre are being removed. You can read some of the coverage here, here, here, and here.

For Scribd, this makes sense – the most voracious readers are romance readers and, as a group, they are consuming far more than the subscription fee covers. Cutting the most popular titles in the heavily read genre will decrease that consumption, Scribd hopes. For romance readers, this is frustrating. Many have wondered why Scribd didn’t just increase the monthly fee or institute tiered subscription levels. That’s something only Scribd can answer and they aren’t likely to do so.

I don’t know that this change will work as Scribd intends however. My gut says that this will actually have one of two consequences instead. First, romance readers will simply cancel their subscriptions when the books they want to read are no longer offered. The second option is that romance readers will simply read the romance titles that are left, even if they aren’t the most popular ones, and Scribd’s bottom line won’t be any better off – except that perhaps readers who weren’t already subscribers will have heard of the cuts and won’t join in the future either.

Amazon’s all you can read subscription service, Amazon Kindle Unlimited, has also been in the news for changes but rather than pulling titles, Amazon is limiting the amount paid to authors rather than books available to readers. To do this, Amazon is paying a per page fee to authors based on the how many pages of a book each reader actually reads. At this time, this change applies only to books that are published through Amazon’s Kindle Select publishing feature but I’d suspect that Amazon will try to push this payment model to smaller publishers and then to the large publishers in the future. The payment change will have the effect of encouraging authors to write shorter books that readers can read fully in a short time so that they will get paid more.

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