After a tumultuous year in the world of e-book subscription services, last week Scribd announced new changes to its subscription offerings. Instead of an unlimited, all-you-can-read e-book service, subscribers will see some big changes at Scribd, starting in mid-March.
Instead of unlimited reading, Scribd subscribers will soon receive Monthly Read credits to allow them to read three e-books and one audiobook every month from Scribd’s library of bestsellers and award winners.
Subscribers will still get some unlimited reading options, but through a rotating collection of titles handpicked by Scribd editors, as well as “substantial previews” of any book or audiobook and unlimited access to sheet music and documents. The monthly fee of $8.99 remains the same, and Scribd is giving subscribers three additional Monthly Reads to use for any books.
According to Publishers Weekly, the forthcoming changes will enable the company to grow and to expand to include more variety. That’s the marketing spin on it anyway, following a year of change in the industry including the utter collapse of Oyster which is now defunct and Scribd’s own scaling back of romance titles because they weren’t profitable.
Scribd explains the reason for the change in a February 16 blog post:
“We’ve worked hard to strike the right balance between providing our members with high-quality books and achieving long-term sustainability. These changes will affect a small number of members – only 3% in any given month. We want you to know that we’re continuing to explore additional membership options for all types of readers.”
On a positive note, Scribd recently announced that it is adding three categories to its e-book subscription service including more than 2,600 selections of sheet music, 10 branded Sesame Street titles, and more than 20,000 science, technical and medical titles from Elsevier. These changes may help soften the blow for subscribers with specific interests.
The news that Scribd is continuing to make changes as its business model evolves is not necessarily a surprise, but we wonder how this news will impact customer retention and prospective customers. Any time you take away something, you risk losing current customers, even if the changes are necessary to sustain the company.
As we said last summer, Scribd is trying to find its sweet spot, and it will probably make additional adjustments to its offerings – including content and price – until it finds a way to satisfy readers and publishers while reaching its own financial goals. It had better find that sweet spot quickly though, as new companies like Playster (games, movies, books & music) are entering the market and companies like Amazon want to be all things to all people (e.g., free shipping, Prime Video, Prime Photos, Prime Music & Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.)