The 'Netflix for books' is in trouble because its users are reading too many romance novels


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Scribd wants to be the 'Netflix for books,' but romance readers might be putting a significant dent in its business plan, Nieman Lab reports.


Mark Coker, CEO of the indie ebooks site Smashwords, posted a letter Scribd sent to publishers and distributors about its plans to start pulling some book titles from its catalog.

But why? The counterintuitive answer actually lies in Scribd's payment model.

Scribd pays publishers for each book its subscribers read from its library of over one million titles.

In fact, Scribd pays "the same amount as the retail model for each book read by a Scribd subscriber." That's a significant deviation from Netflix's model, where content is licensed for a specific period of time.


The paradox of this model is that Scribd gets into trouble when its users, who pay $8.99 per month, start reading too much. And it seems this has already happening in the case of the romance genre.

"We will be making some adjustments, particularly to romance, and as a result some previously available titles may no longer be available," the letter reads.

With romance novels becoming increasingly popular, some Scribd subscribers are devouring romance novel after romance novel. Every time someone reads a book Scribd pays out a royalty - and the romance genre has simply become too expensive for Scribd.

On his blog, Coker estimates "80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles." That's a complete gutting of one of the most-read genres in e-books.

But there's a silver lining for indie romance authors. "Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog," Coker says.


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