Today, July 1st (Happy Canada Day!), Kindle begins paying Kindle Unlimited authors by the page. Their reports section has been updated, authors are talking about how many pages are being read, and we are all biting our nails to see how much Amazon is going to fork out per page. But, that won’t come to light until the end of the month.
In other news, Scribd has decided to raise the white flag and give all its business to Kindle Unlimited.
Scribd announced yesterday (via their aggregates Draft2Digital and Smashwords) that they are culling romance titles from their subscription service because romance readers simply read too much. So much in fact, that they are eating Scribd out of house and home. I’m a Draft2Digital user, but I honestly think Smashword’s post was better.
“Effective immediately, I estimate 80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles. Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog.
Based on what I’ve been able to glean, the lower the price and the higher the word count, the better the odds the book will remain. Few books priced $3.99 and above will remain. Scribd is not publicly revealing the formulas for what stays and what goes, probably because much of this is still in flux. They’re cutting all publishers and distributors with the same blunt knife. It’s ugly. The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books.”
And Draft2Digital had this to say:
Scribd took a significant risk putting in place a model that paid authors the same amount as a retail model for each book read by a subscriber. As we all know, romance readers tend to be incredibly avid readers. In trying to cater to this voracious readership while under this progressive payment model, Scribd has put itself in a difficult place. In a bid to better balance these operating expenses, Scribd is immediately slashing the volume of romance novels in its subscription service.
Yes – Scribd’s model of paying retail royalties for a subscription service flat fee wasn’t viable. I don’t think slashing romance is going to fix this. When you are asking a reader to pay 9$ for access to unlimited reads ranging from 99cents and freebies to books that retail for 9.99… You have to hope and pray that the reader only reads a few mid-range, no 9.99 and mostly freebies/99cent books. Otherwise, you are in the red before that reader finishes their third book. Heck, Kindle Unlimted had the same problem, and they were paying their readers a flat rate of 1.40/borrow.
What I don’t like is the fact that Scribd thinks culling its romance titles (and putting the blame on readers reading too much using a service they are paying Scribd for), and thinking this will fix all the things! It won’t. What it will most likely do is have Scribd’s subscriber base dwindling and moving over to Kindle Unlimited.
Author David Gaughran said it even more poignantly:
“Someone stepped on Scribd’s toe so they decided to amputate their leg.”
As of this morning, my own books were in a kind of strange limbo. I can get to their Scribd sales page via Draft2Digital’s dashboard links, but if you search for me on Scribd, all you will see are my freebies. So, it seems Scribd is expecting romance readers to stay on to pay for access to books they can get free everywhere else. Well, that’s certainly an interesting business plan…
As Amazon flounders to find a workable plan for it’s KU program, and now Scribd apparently committing suicide, one has to wonder if Netflix-style reading subscription services are actually viable? One has to argue that they could be, if readers were asked to pay more than $10/month. But, that of course begs the question: would readers be willing to pay more?
What I don’t understand is how this is a surprise to Kindle or Scribd – that readers who pay for a book subscription will, you know, read. If a reader is going to pay a monthly subscription for something, chances are high they love to read, and will probably read a lot.
I’m certain Kindle and Scribd were hoping most readers would sign up at 10$ and only read a book a month – signing up for access to best sellers and such. The problem? Those best sellers aren’t on Kindle Unlimited because of exclusivity and minimal payment compensation, and the ones that are on Scribd are costing Scribd full retail royalties on best seller prices (8.99 and up).
Instead, what they got were readers signing up who aren’t picky about best sellers, trade-published or indie-published. They got readers who wanted to take chances, give books a try they may not normally spend money on, and the majority of it happened to be romance, erotica, thrillers, horror and short-reads. They are consuming book after book after book, saving themselves tons of money while costing KU and Scribd way more than the 10$ subscription fee.
So, when KU said “uh-oh, this isn’t working”, and Scribd grabbed the bone-saw… I’m surprised that anyone is surprised.