Scribd to Test What E-Consumers Will Pay for Expertise

The self-described ‘social publishing’ site Scribd has opened a new online bookstore and is offering 80% of revenue generated to publishers.

Aside from some pretty meaty benefits (generous revenue sharing, ability to set their own pricing, format and saleable unit (i.e. chapter, whole book, installment) for authors and publishers, Scribd is providing an unparalleled pubic case study in changing reader behaviour: what are readers prepared to pay for expertise?

When free content is lined up beside reasonably priced books from trusted sources like Lonely Planet and O’Reilly Media, will readers still choose to buy? Does buying behaviour change if the for-sale books have DRM wrapped around them?

To borrow imagery from Andrew Savikas, if Scribd is the coalmine, keep an eye on the canary of the DRM-wrapped purchasable books. The good news is that with an 80/20 revenue split, publishers can afford to experiment. We might actually see crowdsourced pricing models that are financially viable to authors and publishers.

Alsothe upcoming iPhone app promises to make Scribd a real competitor in eBookselling so let’s hope they enable publishers and authors from outside of the US to participate soon.