For those of you who may have missed the news, Smashwords.com is now distributing their books to Scribd.com, an online e-book subscription service. If you’re not familiar with Scribd, think of them as the Spotify or Netflix Streaming of e-publishing: Subscribers pay a monthly fee and then can download and read as many books as they want. Authors will get a percentage of that, depending on how much of their book was read by the end consumer.
Here comes the first kick-in-the-pants for authors. If you compare things to, say, Spotify, the popular on-line music service, you’ll easily find references on the Internet to popular performers having their songs played millions of times and getting royalty checks in whole TENS of dollars. Supposedly, if Scribd is anything like the Oyster service, Smashwords authors will be getting 60% of the price of a book borrowed by a reader, as long as nearly 20% of the book is read. So unlike the great deal where an author using Amazon’s Kindle lending library through KDP might get $2 per lend for a 99-cent e-book, a Scribd book will net a writer 59 cents. And that’s only if the person reads 20% of it. Which is something I will come back to in a bit.
Scribd has actually said things will work out fine “if most readers read in moderation.” Umm … a reader who would consider a subscription service for books is more than likely not one that would read in normal “moderation,” whatever the hell that is. I consider myself to be a slightly-above average reader, and I’ve already read over sixty books since the first of the year. Imagine how many some of the power readers could do? Of course, if they read the whole book, then at least the author gets a bit o’ dosh for it. Unless … well, again, more later.
Then, to get Smashwords’ side of the situation, please also see this post from Smashwords founder Mark Coker announcing the Scribd distribution deal and explaining the particulars.