Despite many publishers deliberately avoiding the all-you-can-eat digital books subscription model, the US-based service Scribd is set to record revenue of over $100 million this year, which goes some way to explaining the $58 million investment Scribd received.
As observed in the above-referenced post,
Back in 2015, when first Entitle then Oyster closed in quick succession, it looked to many like the “Netflix for books” subscription model had no future. Or at least, none outside Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
Many believed Scribd, which started the US ebook subscription model, would soon join Entitle and Oyster in the ebooks graveyard in the sky.
Yet Scribd started this year by announcing it had over 1 million subscribers.
Scribd CEO Trip Adler hasn’t yet shared how many new subscribers have been added this year, but has told Publishers Weekly (PW) that the company had seen “steady and consistent growth,” and that revenue this year would top $100 million, compared to $75 million in 2018.
Among the new developments this year was Scribd moving into original content production, and the expansion in Mexico.
PW offers more about the Scribd originals programme, which somehow got sidelined in the TNPS reporting schedule.
This year also saw Scribd begin to create its own content with the launch of Scribd Originals, which features works that fall between lengthy magazine articles and full-length books, with most pieces coming in at under 50,000 words. The company published five Originals in 2019, written by authors James Alutcher, Garrett Graff, Peter Heller, Mark Seal, and Paul Theroux.
Adler notes that 2019 saw the 2018 pattern of audio performing better than books on the platform by hourly consumption, but we should be cautious of reading into that a fading interest in ebooks.
Rather, there are two factors at play here:
First, digital subscription removes the price friction of expensive audio, so unsurprisingly audiobook lovers flock to such platforms.
Second, reading ebooks is something that can only be done under certain conditions, while audio has much wider engagement potential. For example, you cannot read an ebook while driving a car, mowing the lawn or jogging round the block. All can be done while listening to an audiobook. Meaning there is more time available to consume audio than ebooks.
Trip Adler told PW,
This has been a tremendous year at Scribd. In today’s world of endless distractions, I think reading is more important than ever before. We’re building the most comprehensive catalogue of content and we’re encouraging readers to read more and indulge their curiosity—it’s an exciting and rewarding business, and in some ways, it feels like we’re just getting started.
Great sentiments with which to end this year and this decade.
I for one and am excitedly looking forward to seeing what Scribd does with its new investment, and in particular where it will target its international expansion next.