Scribd is the latest company to jump into the Netflix-for-books space. For $8.99 per month, the company is offering users access to thousands of books which they can read on an iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, or on any desktop or mobile device with a web browser.
The company is partnering with Harper Collins, and some of the titles available include works from popular authors including Arthur C. Clarke, Neil Gaiman, John Irving, Dennis Lehane, and Neal Stephenson.
Scribd isn’t the first company to try this business model. In September a company called Oyster launched its own eBook subscription service, but Oyster currently only works on iOS devices and it costs a buck more, at $9.95 per month.
Meanwhile, Amazon offers access to thousands of books in its Kindle Owners’ Lending Library when customers sign up for Amazon Prime at $79 per year. Amazon subscribers also get free 2-day shipping and access to movies and TV shows, but they’re limited to borrowing only up to one eBook per month.
Likewise, many public libraries across the US use OverDrive or a similar service to let users borrow digital books — but each library only has access to a limited number of digital licenses for each title. If someone else has borrowed a book, you can’t read it until it’s returned.
Scribd, Oyster, and similar services let you read as many books as you want, any time you want. But like Netflix, the selection is large but limited. You won’t necessarily be able to find every book you might want to read.
Still, for less than the cost of a single hardcover book a month, this sort of service could save avid readers a lot of money… if they don’t mind not actually owning the books they’re paying for. When you stop paying, your access to the books goes away.
Scribd has been around for more than half a decade, initially as a document sharing service. A few years ago the company also started selling eBooks.
The company hopes to leverage its existing expertise to do things like making it easier for customers to discover new books they may be interested in. Users can also embed eBooks on websites — although readers will only be able to see an excerpt if they aren’t subscribers.