Oh, you thought ‘netflix for books’ was the library?

From Cade Metz at Wired, Scribd Challenges Amazon and Apple With ‘Netflix for Books’

The 29-year-old entrepreneur and his six-year-old San Francisco startup just unveiled an online subscription service that gives you unlimited access to a large library of digital books for a flat monthly fee, including titles from big-name publishing house HarperCollins.

This isn’t a place where you purchase your very own digital copy of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express. It’s a place where you can browse and skim and read whatever strikes your fancy, which might end up as a few paragraphs of the Christie classic sandwiched in between a chapter of Elmore Leonard crime fiction and a cover-to-cover romp through your favorite Neil Gaiman novel…

…Basically, a publisher gets paid only if a reader chooses one of its particular books — and it only gets paid in full if the book is read in full. “We actually determine whether the book is read and make payments to the publisher based on that,” Adler says.

It sounds to me like you will not get to download any ‘ebooks’ to your device, you can read only online while connected to the internet, using scribd’s in-browser e-reader, I’d imagine.

Which is actually true of some of the so-called ‘ebooks’ in many libraries catalogs too, they’re not actually downloadable ebooks, but just access to in-browser readers online.  Which I think tends to be pretty frustrating for most library patrons, but scribd might have a better in-browser reader UX than most of our vendors too (although reviews are not all good).

The top comment, at the moment, on the hacker news thread:

It would be great if public libraries offered this service (or one like it) to their patrons. My local library offers Overdrive Media Console [1], but the selection always seems to be lacking and the apps are subpar. An electronic rental service with books that people actually want to read would be killer and could save libraries money. My library system has cut back on inter-library requests because of shrinking funding, and an electronic delivery system could help cut costs.

[1] http://omc.overdrive.com

Yeah, wouldn’t that be great?

Another HN comment:

Whilst I’m pretty sure I’d use this or something like it, it’s kinda sad the traditional libraries I used so much (and for free) when I was younger can’t keep up with the pace of convenience. I often wonder how long it’ll be before the smaller towns (sadly) lose them completely.

That said, good luck to them :-)

I’m glad that the ALA is paying attention, finally, to the ebook threat to libraries these days, but I’m not sure they’re making much headway.

Yep, it’s kinda sad.

One thought on “Oh, you thought ‘netflix for books’ was the library?

  1. Scribd, though, would be subject to the same sorts of problems that OverDrive has had — if you want the big publishers on board with your ebook distribution service, you have a lot of leverage if you’re Amazon, and not so much if you’re not. In other words, a Netlfix-for-books could easily run into the same problems hanging onto third-party content that Netflix does.

    I suspect that from Harper Collins point of view, their main interest in the Scribd service is a lot more about Amazon than it is about anything else.

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