Scribd launched their ebook subscription service in late 2013 but it wasn't until early 2014 that they added titles distributed by Smashwords, so the magnitude of growth comes as a shock:
The Smashwords catalog went live at Scribd on February 28, 2014, the last day of the month. The first full month’s sales (March) exceeded my expectations. It was the largest first-month sales for any new Smashwords retail partner in the last five years. I know our friends at Scribd were equally pleased by the popularity of Smashwords titles.
April results were even more impressive, showing a month-over-month sequential gain of 50%. Although the sales volume at Scribd hasn't reached the level of iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and the Smashwords store, they're off to a strong start by any measure.
Their April results alone represent nearly triple the recent combined sales of Sony and Diesel, two Smashwords retailers that exited the ebook business in March, and already represent 1/3 our Kobo sales. I’m excited to see where Scribd can take this over the next few years.
I checked with Mark by email, and he told me that revenue from Scribd had already exceeded revenues from Oyster. This was to be expected; Scribd offers a service which is available globally on Android and iOS (with just over 400,000 titles), while Oyster's 500,000 title strong catalog is limited to only iDevice owners in the US market.
While I am not surprised by Scribd passing Sony or Oyster, I was startled by the comparison to Kobo. eBook subscriptions are a new enough market that it is difficult to predict whether it will succeed or have much affect on the existing ebook market.
Today's news, however vague, is the first revenue data to be shared publicly. We finally have something to help us figure out whether speculation about the ebook sub market could come to pass. For example, last year Scribd CEO Trip Adler predicted that Scribd's ebook subscriptions would reach a billion dollar a year in revenue. I still think that is optimistic, but today's news has convinced me that the market as a whole could reach a billion dollars.
At the very least I am expecting to see Scribd make it into the top 5 ebook retailers by the end of next year, if not sooner.