by Will Viharo
When you finally publish your eBook, the question becomes: do you want to make money, or do you simply want your work to be read? The distinction between these two goals is being defined by the realities of the marketplace these days. A company called Scribd is dramatically changing the game yet again – and even Amazon is responding to the new trend of subscription-based online libraries. Which is good for them - maybe not so good for you.
Scribd began as a document sharing service in 2007, but earned instant industry-wide notoriety in 2013 when it launched its “unlimited” eBook subscription service. Just recently, the CEO announced they hit their fundraising goals, havingraised $22 million in 2014, bringing their grand total to date to a whopping $48 million, which makes them the current leader of this wide open field, and greatly enhances their potential to expand.
Think of this innovative and so far successful venture as the literary equivalent of Netflix. For one flat rate – in Scribd's case, $8.95/month (following a free 30-day trial period) - the subscriber can “borrow” as many eBooks as he or she chooses.
Another startup company called Oyster has tossed their hat in the virtual ring with a similar service for $9.95/month, and likewise with a 30-day trial period. So far they have raised $14 million; behind Scribd, but catching up quickly.
Obviously, the idea is rapidly gaining traction with many readers – and even some writers.
As this New York Times article points out, most of the eBooks offered by Amazon's own new (since July of 2014) subscription service, called Kindle Unlimited, are self-published, whereas their smaller brand competitors are offering books by major publishers like Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster, two of New York's “Big Five.” Kindle Unlimited's service is the highest right now, if only slightly, at $9.99/month, and it also offers the usual 30-day trial period.
The issue for authors that agree to be included in these online lending libraries is that they are forfeiting their profits in exchange for “exposure.” Depending on your immediate agenda, this may not be such a bad idea, especially if this is your first book and you don't have an established name as an author. It's basically free promotion, albeit via a heavily shared platform.
You know the old saying: “The first one is free...” It's an age-old marketing ploy that is still viable. Any product offered gratis, especially if its true worth is unknown or without a proven track record, will attract more budget-minded consumers – and when it comes to an entertainment luxury like book purchases, almost everyone is budget-minded. With so many books flooding the market nowadays, the competition is simply too intense.
Offering at least one eBook for free as part of a subscription service is akin to that “30-day trial period” - if they like it, they'll pay for more. Your job is to make them want to actually purchase the next one – or even inspire the desire to own the one they just borrowed.
Meantime, the eBook subscription service wars continue.
How do you feel about offering your eBook for free via a subscription service?