US e-book subscription service Scribd is dropping its unlimited e-book subscription offer, and moving to a hybrid model as of next month.
Announcing the changes, Scribd said it had "worked hard to strike the right balance between providing our members with high-quality books and achieving long-term sustainability".
In its support section it said it was "switching from an all you can eat buffet, to an 'excess in moderation' kind of system".
From mid-March, the monthly Scribd subscription will offer "three premium reads books and one audiobook" from Scribd’s library. "Unlimited reading" will meanwhile be limited to "Scribd Selects" - a rotating collection of books and audiobooks handpicked by editors (the number in the collection confirmed with c.e.o. Trip Adler by Teleread.com to be in the thousands in contrast to one million available overall) - as well as to sheet music and documents.
Scribd estimated the changes would only affect 3% of subscribers in any given month, adding: "We want you to know that we’re continuing to explore additional membership options for all types of readers."
The subscription price will remain fixed at $8.99 per month.
Scribd explained in its support helpdesk section to customers that the "all you can eat buffet" system of reading had "attracted a small percentage of very hungry readers".
"Initially, this was totally expected - and even kind of exciting for us. But the costs of this kind of venture are incredibly difficult to feed, and while we've tried our best it's simply not sustainable in the long run. As the e-book landscape changes, the needs of our community and the sustainability of our service will become a much larger part of our long term goals," it said.
The 2007-launched start-up imposed a quota on audiobook borrows last September, following on from cuts made to romance and erotica in July 2015. In July, Adler told The Bookseller it was focused on growing subscribers, increasing overall reading and total publisher payouts "in a way that works for everyone over the long term". It added as part of its announcement on 31st June 2015: "We’re a business in uncharted territory, and as any successful start-up business knows, innovation requires iteration, and that’s the process we’re going through now."
It had signed an exclusive deal with Harlequin in September 2014 to make more than 15,000 titles available on the programme, after which it signed a deal in November 2014 with Findaway to add 30,000 audiobooks. Scribd pays authors and publishers a percentage of the retail price each time a book is loaned.