Skip to main content

Oyster, Scribd Comment on Kindle Unlimited

kindle unlimitedIt’s been just over a day since I broke the news that Amazon had a Netflix style ebook service in the works. We still haven’t gotten a comment from Amazon, but both of Amazon’s smaller competitors have commented on Kindle Unlimited.

The comments are pro forma, but they still say more than the loud silence coming out of Seattle.

Trip Adler, CEO of Scribd believes the entrant of a new competitor will be good for ebook subscription services as a whole:

The apparent entrance of Amazon into subscription market is exciting for the industry as a whole. It’s validation that we’ve built something great here at Scribd. Publishers, authors and readers alike have all seen the benefit, so its no surprise they’d want to test the waters. Successful companies don’t fear competition, but rather embrace it, learn from it and use it to continue to fuel their own innovation which is exactly what we intend to continue doing.

Oyster CEO Eric Stromberg agrees:

We’re not surprised. They have pivoted from transactional to subscription-based in other media, and have had limited success. They really paved the way in ebooks, and it’s exciting to see them embrace the market we created as the future of books.

Based on the leaked details, Kindle Unlimited is expected to cost $9.99 a month and offer a 600,000 title strong catalog when it launches. No one when exactly that will happen, but I am expecting that the service will go live in August or September.

Here’s Amazon’s promotional video for Kindle Unlimited, which as you can see suggests that KU will be available on the iPad, Android devices, and Amazon’s own Kindle Fire Android tablets.

When the service launches it is going to cause an upheaval in this nascent market.

While some companies like 24Symbols have been providing a subscription ebook service for years (Safari Books Online has been around for over a decade) the market really only took off last Fall with the launch of Oyster and Scribd. They had the market to themselves for nearly a year, but soon these two established players are going to find themselves in the same position as Amazon’s other ebook competitors: fighting it out for second place.

Of the two, I would say Scribd is better positioned to play second fiddle to Amazon. With 400,000 titles in their catalog, Scribd has a smaller selection but they also are available internationally. Oyster, on the other hand, is still only available in the US, so even though it offers a catalog with 500,000 titles it is still at a distinct disadvantage.

Also, Scribd got into this market after building a business in online storage. That gave them a head start in developing the tech and the engineering skill needed to compete in this market on an equal footing with Amazon. Oyster, on the other hand, launched with only an iPhone app and belatedly added an iPad app and (much later) an Android app.

But to be honest, it is really too early to say who will come in second to Kindle Unlimited; there’s still time for Oyster to take its service international and work to catch up to Scribd.

Similar Articles


Rob Siders July 17, 2014 um 10:29 am

I think the thing that sets the Amazon offering apart is that audiobooks are in the mix, too.

Ebook Bargains UK July 17, 2014 um 12:03 pm

Or perhaps the definer will be content.

If Amazon is going to leap into first place it’s going to do more than offer KDP titles, its own imprints and a handful of title from publishers that exclude all the Big 5.

Lots of indies have been busily denouncing subscription services as a dreadful idea. Somehow I don;t think Amazon is planning on giving them a choice.

Rob Siders July 17, 2014 um 1:51 pm

Nate has confirmed it includes publisher titles.

fjtorres July 17, 2014 um 2:18 pm

Those indies haven’t thought things through.
Listing titles with a subscription service is a marketing move, equivalent to putting it on sale and, unlike temporarily free or permafree titles, it can bring in significant revenue while improving visibility.
Wise publishers won’t necessarily put *all* their titles on subscription services but putting a few choice titles will likely result in net gains.

It’s all about visibility.

Maria (BearMountainBooks) July 17, 2014 um 6:00 pm

I don’t understand why any author wouldn’t want to be part of a subscription service. If your book gets read, you get paid. Pretty much works the same as if a book is bought. Although I suppose it may depend on how MUCH of the book is read–which is something subscription services track for payment, whereas when you buy a book, no one really cares.

I’ve had good luck with the books that I have placed in subscription services. I’d do it again with new books coming out.

Paul July 18, 2014 um 9:17 am

Alas, I think Amazon entering any market place is pretty much a guarantee that all competition will soon be eliminated. Look at what has happened in the UK with movie rentals. Yes, Netflix are making a play now, but prior to that Amazon have simply bought up every other provider.

Initially, this may not seem a bad thing, but as anyone who has done Economics 101 knows, such a monopoly ultimately results in paying a higher price – not a lower one.

I love what Scribd are doing, and won’t be rushing to cancel my subscription with them to go with the 800 pound gorilla that is Amazon.

Felipe Adan Lerma July 18, 2014 um 5:34 pm

yeah, Scribd has all the major titles KU has (that I’m interested in) plus all those titles that aren’t exclusive on KU, have been very happy with Scribd

still, i’ll try KU out as a reader and a writer; i like being able to know first hand what i’m comparing (as i recently did with Oyster vs Scribd)

take care, best wishes

jon July 18, 2014 um 1:53 pm

Oyster started as an IPod-only app, then rolled out IPAD. not the other way around

Write a Comment