Launched last Fall, Scribd and Oyster each offer an all-you-can-read subscription service similar to the ones offered by companies like Netflix and Spotify. Scribd offers access to a catalog of more than 400,000 titles (which can be read on Android, iOS, and your web browser) for $9 a month, and Oyster offers access to more than 500,000 titles (which can only be read on the iPhone, iPad) for $10 a month.
Following in the footsteps of HarperCollins, Wiley, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Simon & Schuster is the fourth major US publisher to sign a deal with either Scribd or Oyster, which have drawn most of their content from smaller publishers as well as distributors like Smashwords.
Wiley is still dabbling in the market with a mere 1,000 titles at Scribd, but both HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster are being more aggressive in using the services as a way to jump-start sales of older books. HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster each limit the titles supplied to Scribd and Oyster to titles which were published over a year ago.
According to Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said, "Consumers have clearly taken to subscription models for other media, and we expect that our participation in these services will encourage discovery of our books, grow the audience and expand our retail reach for our authors, and create new revenue streams under an author-friendly, advantageous business model for both author and publisher."
Three other major US publishers (Hachette, Penguin Random House, and Macmillan) are still holding back from the subscription ebook market.
"It's not a model for us," Evan Schnittman, chief marketing and sales officer at Hachette, told the WSJ. Acknowledging the contradiction between Hachette's position and what consumers want, he added: "My kids no longer buy music because they are using one of many music subscription services and have access 24/7."
Simon & Schuster signed the deals today because they too realize that Oyster and Scribd offer a service that customers want which could also boost direct sales. "We thought the lower barrier to reading could, in fact, increase sales," Ms. Reidy said. "Whether a book is 20 years old or five years old, they are equally discoverable."