Some of you may be aware that there’s a Netflix for eBooks in town. Or, on the Internet, actually 🙂
Last fall, Smashwords notified its authors that it was teaming up with Oyster and Scribd as a way to distribute its ebooks to readers. These two websites operate kind of like Netflix. Meaning, a subscriber pays a certain amount each month to have “borrowed” books sent to their eReader. There is also a “recommended for you” part on these sites, which Netflix has too. This will allow word of mouth to come into play for many authors, which is the best way to sell anything for anyone.
And yes, there is a financial pay-off, but that all depends how much of a book a reader actually reads. There is a compensation (not a lot, but its still money) when a book is actually read from cover-to-cover. There are other payments, albeit smaller, when half or two-thirds of the book is read. So all in all, Oyster and Scribd offer indie authors both a chance to find new readers and get some compensation for their investment.
But I have heard about some writers being uneasy with this. Some of them aren’t too optimistic because both Oyster and Scribd are new ventures, and there is a concern that they might fail. Others claimed to have used one of these sites before they teamed up with Smashwords, and they had to go to great lengths to get their royalties. And there are some who say Oyster and Scribd are going to cheapen the book industry because it is so cheap to get books, particularly eBooks.
Regarding the first concern, many business ventures start off slowly before taking off. Look at Twitter. Many laughed at that idea, and now the CEO is laughing his way to the bank. I am optimistic that Oyster and Scribd will succeed, because it was inevitable that an eBook loaning site will start with the advent of eBooks.
Now as for the shady side of those two sites, well, I don’t think Smashwords’ Mark Coker would want to do business with something that will hurt the authors who come to his site. Since authors like me are half the reason why Smashwords is a success (the other half is from the readers who buy their books there), why would he want to anger us? We’re like his bread and butter.
As for cheapening the book business, yes I admit it sounds a bit scary. The publishing industry keeps changing, thanks to the Internet and the ever-evolving digital technology. But the music industry was turned upside down by file sharing and iTunes, and it is still standing. Netflix’s only casualty were video store chains, like Blockbuster. But movies are still being made and still generating money. As technology changes, so must we.
But I don’t think these two sites, or any other route for authors to sell or spread the word about their books, will destroy the book business. Things are little shook up now, but I’m sure everything will work out in the end.
I’m excited for these ventures, and I don’t see why they would fail. Here in the U.S., Netflix and Redbox are a success, so why can’t those two book loaning sites be successful with readers? Plus, the idea of more people coming across my book sounds great to me! And if they only read half of it, well, anything towards what I invested in is fine by me.
By the way, if you are an author on Smashwords, the way to have your books included on Oyster and Scribd is to have them in the premium catalog.