October 1, 2013
Scribd, which has traditionally been known as the place to find online documents, has launched its own online book subscription service. At the same time, eReatah is now offering its own service. These plans are very different, as this brief look shows.
ScribdFor $8.99 per month, Scribd users receive unlimited online access and an offline library of 20 books at a time. Access to these books remains as long as a user remains a subscriber. At launch, Scribd is only offering books from HarperCollins that are at least a year old. However, other publishers are expected to join in the coming months. According to AllThingsD, the reason more publishers have yet to sign up for the Scribd service has a lot to with Apple’s e-book antitrust trial. They note that this trial has caused “increasing scrutiny on online book selling.” In July, Judge Denise Cote found Apple guilty of colluding with five major U.S. publishers to drive up the price of books. A trial on damages is scheduled to begin in May 2014. Even with that limitation, Scribd promises a library of “over 25 million books and documents.” New users can subscribe to the book subscription service through the free Scribd app, which is available for the iPhone/iPod touch and iPad. One-day passes and a discounted annual subscription are also available via the Scribd website.
eReatahCurrently available in beta, eReatah’s online book service is vastly different than the one Scribd offers. Unlike traditional rental plans, once a book is downloaded, it is yours to keep even after cancelling a subscription. Unlike Scribd, eReatah doesn't market "unlimited" packages. Instead, it offers tiered subscriptions, which begin at $14.99 per month. For that, you may select two books each month and read them via the universal eReatah app. For $22.50, you may select three books each month; for $29.99, that number jumps to four. To date, eReatah offers over 90,000 titles from multiple publishers. These include: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Workman, Diversion, Berrett-Koehler, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kensington, Sourcebooks, HarperCollins Christian, IPG, Open Road Media, and RosettaBooks. They also have a distribution deal with Ingram Content Group that provides full catalogs from 400 additional publishers. One of the things that may help differentiate eReatah from other offerings is its Recommendation Station. This system uses the same algorithm that won the Netflix Prize Challenge in 2009. With it, users are told about new books based on their preferences and past purchases. According to Bryan Batten, CEO and founder of eReatah, their subscription model offers more value compared to competing unlimited plans. He recently told AppAdvice:
Most of our books are higher priced books. For example, with our service you can get the new Stephen King, Brad Thor, or Vince Flynn novel. Over 80 percent of our books retail for over $8.99, and 50 percent retail for over $12.99. We also feel that allowing a member to hold on to the book and own it even if they leave our service creates additional value for them.Of eReatah's Recommendation Station, Batten notes:
Finally our recommendation system is going to ensure readers that they find the titles they are will enjoy and they won't have to waste their time "trying" out books that they will not enjoy.You can request a beta, by visiting ereatah.com. Scribd and eReatah join a growing list of online book providers that also now includes Oyster, which Christine Chan recently called the "Netflix of Books." We plan on taking a closer look at both of these programs in the future. Until then, the Scribd and eReatah apps are available for download in the App Store.