It all seemed so improbable just a few years ago, when many believed Scribd would follow Oyster into oblivion as Amazon moved into the ebook subscription game.
And then of course there’s all that nonsense about how people are reading less nowadays and how the digital reading fad has faded and how…
By the logic of the publishing industry naysayers Scribd should have long since keeled over and admitted ebooks have no future and the subscription model is dead.
But this week comes news that Scribd has just surpassed the 1 million subscriber mark – a wake up call for publishers that dismissed Scribd and its subscription model as a lost cause, and a wake up call for indie authors who jumped into the exclusivity-required Amazon alternative, Kindle Unlimited, believing Scribd had no future.
Launched in 2007, Scribd in 2013 became the first ebook subscription service in the US, its early success paving the path for Kindle Unlimited.
Scribd expanded its content range to audiobooks and magazines in 2015, and 2018 saw the adoption of an unlimited consumption model.
Scribd CEO Trip Adler said,
This is an exciting milestone for Scribd; one million subscribers is a tipping point for any subscription company and proves we have a reading service that people want, need, and love.
Scribd has been at the forefront of the digital reading evolution over the last decade, driving incremental revenue to the publishing industry while making the written word more accessible than ever before. As we celebrate this milestone, we’re grateful to our partners for trusting us with their content and believing in our mission to change the way the world reads.
It’s not been an easy journey. In 2016 Scribd was forced to reign in its “unlimited” reading because too many consumers were out-reading their monthly subscription plan at an unsustainable level but a variant model was reintroduced in 2018.
While not referencing past problems, Adler said,
Scribd is dedicated to building a subscription model that strikes the right balance between delivering great value for readers and publishing partners while achieving long-term sustainability. We launched our unlimited subscription last year and have been delighted by the response: we’ve grown our subscriptions over 40% (YOY), and more people are listening to audiobooks than ever before (a +100% increase in audio users over the course of 2018).
Scribd has also been a champion of the bundling movement, partnering with top publishers like The New York Times, and leading consumer brands like Waze, to make it easy for readers to discover and access all of the content they want, when and where they want it.
Unlike Kindle Unlimited, which in reach is limited to a handful of the Kindle store countries – USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Australia – Scribd is available pretty much worldwide.
Another key difference is that Scribd carries content from many of the Big 5 publishers, whereas the Kindle Unlimited subscription service comprises mostly APub and self-published titles.
Despite this, Kindle Unlimited has been successful in the US and can be considered instrumental in Oyster’s demise.
But Scribd has defied its critics and is still here and evidently stronger than ever, both at home and abroad.
Overseas Scribd competes in the subscription arena with rivals Bookmate, 24Symbols, Storytel-Mofibi, Skoobe, Nubleer, Perlego, Legimi, Kobo Plus, Leamos and Playster among many.