New Publishing Business Model #2: Scribd

O’Reilly’s doing it. Simon and Schuster’s doing it. The New York Times, Harvard and Ford are doing it.

Whatever it is you might be guessing (the twist? the dew? the nike corporate schill?), if you didn’t guess selling content through Scribd, then you don’t get the blue ribbon. Not that you do get one if you guessed right but I’m guessing only Wilbur the pig would be disappointed at the lack of such decorative prizes.

This is not the first post on the BNC Blog to discuss Scribd and the potential changes this kind of bookselling could bring to the industry. Because Scribd allows publishers to set prices while offering 80% of the listed price to the content provider, it might be possible for presses to sell eBooks at lower rates than hardcopies and still make a profit.

It’s also really easy to allow for content previews while still protecting the rest of the book and Scribd promises search engine indexing as well.

Good Stuff

  • Better revenue splitallowing for lower pricing in-line with perceived value of eBooks to consumers
  • Findabilityit’s not Amazon and there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles but it is an aggregated book center with a wide range of content. There’s at least a chance of browsing.
  • Good designthe Buy Now button is huge, orange and wisely placed. Scribd makes it easy for people to figure out how to get the goods.

I’m Not Convinced About…

  • The current pricingS&S is offering a 20% discount off what looks like the trade paper price. O’Reilly has a pretty wide range but a lot of their stuff is $35.99 which seems like a lot to me especially considering…
  • It’s just a PDFno choice of formats. If I’m going to pay that much for a book, I need it to be available on any device. If I’m paying print book prices, it needs to be print book portable.
  • Copyright issuesthe Scribd store is only available to those in the US (or those willing to use an IP re-router for book buying purposes). The question of copyright is a moot one for now but if this becomes globally accessible and eBook rights are carved up, issues of differing prices in different territories could come up pretty fast. And it might not be pretty.

Worth it? It’s a hard question to answer in Canada since we don’t even have access yet. That said, I think this is the kind of site that’s worth playing with if you’ve got US rights for your books. Since it doesn’t require any high-faluting files, it wouldn’t be a huge time investment to get a few PDFs in the game and experiment with price points and subjects.