Scribd, Citing Profitability, Cuts Back on Love and Sex

In News by Dennis Abrams

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Scribd found romance readers gorging on books through the ebook subscription service are costly, and now the company is cutting back on the genre.

By Dennis Abrams

Adjustments to reader subscription services have been in the news a lot lately, and now The Guardian reports that the online book subscription service Scribd “has announced it is slashing its romance and erotica…because readers are gorging themselves.”

For a monthly fee, Scribd subscribers are allowed to read an unlimited number of books. But, David Barnett writes, “Scribd appears to have slightly underestimated just how much can be consumed at their all-you-can-eat literary buffet – especially by fans of romance.”

The problem with this is that Scribd is now paying more out to authors than it’s making back in subscriptions.

So, in a letter to publishers and self-published authors, Scribd announced that:

“In starting Scribd, we bore the majority of the risk when establishing a business model that paid publishers the same amount as the retail model for each book read by a Scribd subscriber. Now, nearly two years later, the Scribd catalogue has grown from 100,000 titles to more than 1m. We’re proud of the service we’ve built and we’re constantly working to expand the selection across genres to give our readers the broadest possible list of books for $8.99 (£5.74) per month.

“We’ve grown to a point where we are beginning to adjust the proportion of titles across genres to ensure that we can continue to expand the overall size and variety of our service. We will be making some adjustments, particularly to romance, and as a result some previously available titles may no longer be available.”

The Guardian cited Mark Coker, writing on the official blog of indie and self-published ebook distributor Smashwords, who said bluntly that the situation was “ugly” for romance authors and publishers.

“Effective immediately, I estimate 80-90% of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles.

“Bottom line, romance readers – readers we love dearly at Smashwords – are reading Scribd out of house and home. Scribd’s business model, as it’s set up now, simply can’t sustain the high readership of romance readers. They’re not facing the same problem with readers of other genres.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.