The catalog for Scribd’s $8.99-per-month ebook subscription service has now hit 400,000 titles, founder and CEO Trip Adler told Digital Book World this week. Further, Adler claimed that for some suppliers of ebooks, Scribd was now the fourth largest revenue source.
“We’re definitely ahead of Oyster” as a revenue source among some suppliers, said Adler. Earlier in May, Oyster, which costs readers $9.95-per-month and has 500,000 titles in its ebook catalog, claimed it was the fifth largest retailer for some of its suppliers.
Adler pointed to a recent post by Smashwords founder and CEO Mark Coker on his company’s blog touting the success of Scribd:
The Smashwords catalog went live at Scribd on February 28, 2014, the last day of the month. The first full month’s sales (March) exceeded my expectations. It was the largest first-month sales for any new Smashwords retail partner in the last five years. I know our friends at Scribd were equally pleased by the popularity of Smashwords titles.
April results were even more impressive, showing a month-over-month sequential gain of 50%. Although the sales volume at Scribd hasn’t reached the level of iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and the Smashwords store, they’re off to a strong start by any measure.
Their April results alone represent nearly triple the recent combined sales of Sony and Diesel, two Smashwords retailers that exited the ebook business in March, and already represent 1/3 our Kobo sales. I’m excited to see where Scribd can take this over the next few years.
According to Adler, part of Scribd’s early success has been its ability to get readers reading back-list books from publishers.
“For HarperCollins, we sell more of their older books than newer books,” said Adler, adding that Scribd had the largest catalog of HarperCollins ebooks among any ebook subscription service.
Every time a book is read on Scribd — that is, a reader has viewed above a certain percentage of pages — the company pays the publisher a fee as if the reader purchased the ebook.
Adler wouldn’t say whether Scribd’s ebook subscription business was cash-positive yet but did say that Scribd as a whole is making profit every month.
Oyster’s catalog of ebooks is currently larger than Scribd’s. Adler said Scribd has some deals in the works that the company will be announcing soon that should help close the gap — and help Scribd retain more readers.
“The No. 1 reason people stop subscribing is that they want more books,” said Adler, adding, “we’re focused on getting best-selling books to attract readers.”
Scribd now has 60 employees, including two in New York dedicated to acquiring new content. (One, Andrew Weinstein, will be participating in the upcoming DBW Debate on ebook subscription services; the other, recently hired, is former Sony ebook content account manager Christina Faubert.)
While HarperCollins is the only “big-five” publisher that Scribd currently works with, Adler said, “we have a lot of momentum talking to big-five publishers” but would not name which ones or how likely they would join the catalog any time soon.