There is "an enormous business to be built in the book subscription space," similar to that in music and film, but more titles need to be made available by publishers, Scribd c.e.o. Trip Adler told the IPA Congress in Bangkok yesterday (24th March).
Meanwhile HarperCollins chief digital officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi told the Congress it was very important for publishers to participate in new models, saying: "Only then can you sit at the table and define the business models. If you don't, others will, and it may not be to the advantage of your authors or content."
Adler said Scribd now has 25% of the US book market's catalogue, including participation from Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Macmillan, but wants to get to 80%. Among subscription cancellations, 65% are occurring because Scribd does not offer the book the reader is looking for rather than for any other reason. "We have 1,000 publishers signing up, mostly in the US but also around the world," Adler said. "We are very happy with our progress in the last year and a half, but there is still a long way to go."
Scribd now reaches a million non-paying users around the world, with subscriptions focused on the US and English language content. Mobile is the platform showing the most growth, and with the most potential, Adler
said. "In terms of reading time, tablets are bigger, the iPad particularly, but phones are second and growing faster. Most of our subscriptions are not touching our website any more, readers download the app; while we do have some browsing on the web, more and more browsing and reading can be done on the phone." Subscription readers also show different behaviour patterns to those who consume books "a la carte", reading twice as much, and relying heavily on recommendations rather than searched-for titles, he added.
Restivo-Alessi said that HarperCollins, which offers its backlist titles on Scribd, had been surprised to find subscription readers ranging across its catalogue and well beyond the big-brand authors, such as Paolo Coelho, that the publisher had expected them to focus on.
The HC chief digital officer said subscription services tie in with the needs of young people, who want "access, not ownership". It was important for publishers to make sure their content was remunerated in a way that was sustainable to their business, and to create as many distribution channels to the market as possible, she said. "Unlike Spotify, as soon as a book is read, it is paid for; this allowed us to have authors and agents on side."
Adler said Scribd had no current plans to make regional changes to its $8.99 flat monthly charge, which applies across the world. "We might try experimenting with different prices in different countries, or different
tiers, but at the moment we are focused on one price," he said. "We are trying to eliminate purchasing decisions wherever possible - the more simple it is, the more people will sign up. We have the vision of adding as much content as we can for one price point."