Penguin Random House Pulls eBooks and Audiobooks From Netflix-Style Subscription Access Services

PRH is backing out of its contracts with ebook and audiobook subscription services. Last week they pulled their ebooks from several Europe-based Kindle Unlimited competitors, and now they are pulling their audiobooks from Scribd as well.

PRH UK issued a statement this morning:

Penguin Random House has decided that at this stage we will not participate in unlimited access subscription models. Our decision was made collectively by the company’s international leadership team to preserve a diversity of content in the marketplace and the actual and perceived long-term value of our authors’ intellectual property.

While PRH didn’t have ebooks in Scribd, they did have a few ebooks in Storytel, Bookbeat, and Nextory, and as TNPS reported, the titles were removed last week.

That move inspired a Swedish blog to speculate that PRH was going to launch its own subscription service, but I’d say the above statement put the kibosh on that idea. While PRH could launch such a service using just the works they have under contract (as Mike Shatzkin has pointed out, PRH has a huge backlist), that would be a major shift from the publishing conglomerate’s well-established position of indifference towards subscription access models.


Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Ben W.23 January, 2020

    Thanks PRH, your decision leads to Audible (“an Amazon company”) becoming the only relevant market place for audio books in the world. Thank you for the rejection of cultural diversity by promoting monopolists. One day you may also realize that this decision may backfire if there is only one trader left who controls everything.
    Oh, wait a moment, how many shares does PRH actually have in Amazon – or vice versa…?

  2. Chris24 January, 2020

    There’s a few other large purveyors of audiobooks, such as, Googleplay books, B&N Nook (bleh), or newer companies pushing in like Kobo. I don’t know how much of an impact it’s really made, I know Amazon was roughly 50% of total book sales in like 2015 when they did the Big 5 Pub Agreements. But continuing, PHR stated they removed their content from Unlimited services, not affecting platforms where you purchase your content individually, like those mentioned above. I thought PHR were going to push for their own service instead but I guess not.

  3. […] Penguin Random House seems to be giving up on the idea of a “Netflix for Books”. The Digital Reader reports they are withdrawing their books from several subscription services. Publishing […]

  4. Erin2 February, 2020

    Ugh, I like Penguin and I subscribe to Scribd, so I do find this news disappointing.

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