Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Look at Ebook Subscription Services

Hi! Welcome to my blog! This week I wanted to discuss the various ebook subscription services that have popped up in the past year. I haven't signed up for any of them. If any of you have, or have received royalties from having books available on these services then I would love to hear about it.

From my search on google there appears to be three major players competing for this market. Scribd, Oyster, and Entitle are the services I will discuss here. I'm going to discuss it from the reader's perspective and then from an author's perspective. I have questions about these services that I am going to attempt to answer. Anything I can't find an answer for I will leave it as a question that hopefully one of you may be able to answer.

Oyster 

(https://www.oysterbooks.com) / Price: $9.95 per month / Selection: Over 200,000 ebooks / Unlimited amount of books per month / App available on IOS 7

For Readers

This service compares itself to Netflix as do several of their press releases. It seems like an apt description based off the price point and the unlimited amount of books users can read. They are planning an Android version, but it is currently only available on devices that support IOS 7. This seems to be worth it for readers if they are able to read more than three books a month (based on a $2.99 price point for ebooks). They also offer a free month to try it out. It has the capability to download the ebooks and read them offline for when you don't have internet access. This service is only available in the United States.

For Authors

This service does not deal directly with authors. You can get your self published book on this service only through Smashwords. They also have several deals in place with traditional publishers to have their books available for the service. The author royalty through Smashwords is 60% of the book's retail price whenever someone reads 10 % of the book. For a $2.99 ebook that would be $1.79 per book.

Scribd

(https://www.scribd.com) / Price: $8.99 per month / Selection: Over 300,000 ebooks / Unlimited amount of books per month / App available on Android and IOS 6 or above, Also available through any web browser

For Readers

This service is similar in many ways to Oyster in that it offers a month long trial subscription, and it has the capability to download ebooks for offline reading. There are some differences. It's a bit cheaper than Oyster at almost $1 less per month. This service is available worldwide. It doesn't have as many ebooks available as Oyster, but it does offer millions of other publications. It is worth it if you can read three books per month.

For Authors

Scribd offers to sell your ebook via their store at 80% royalty to the publishers, but I'm not sure if they deal directly with self published authors. They have a form that must be filled out for publishers, so it's possible that they have negotiated seperate deals with traditional publishers. There is user shared content on this site, but they don't offer any royalty to users. Like Oyster, it looks like Smashwords is the only way for Self Published authors to get any royalty. Smashwords authors get a free year subscription. Authors get a 60% royalty through Smashwords if someone reads 30% of the book.

Entitle

(https://www.entitlebooks.com) / Price: $9.99, $14.99, or $19.99 per month / Selection: Over 125,000 ebooks / 2, 3, or 4 books per month / App available on Android, IOS and Kobo.

For Readers

The price for this service is quite a bit higher than the others, but there is one major advantage that this service provides. You get to keep whatever books you have available forever. The other services cut off access once your subscription is expired. The FAQ is underwhelming compared to the other services. It does appear that it is available worldwide, and you do have offline access to the books that are available.

For Authors

I couldn't even find a submission form for this service. It looks like they are closed off to self published authors completely. I couldn't find any royalty information for this either, but within their terms of service the wording says that the reader is given a license to read the ebook. For traditionally published authors your royalty would depend on what kind of contract you signed with your publisher.

My Thoughts

Ebook subscription services have been touted as the future of the business, and each of these have been compared to Netflix. All three have a good amount of funding behind them, and they are fighting over marketshare for this new business. Each service has its own set of publishers that are providing books for content. Some are only providing backlist titles, and a couple of these services advertise that they have the latest new releases available. It doesn't seem like self published authors have access to get their books on these services yet. Getting Smashwords support is a nice start for Oyster and Scribd, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

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