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Why Is It a Big Deal That HarperCollins Puts "Hundreds" if Titles in Kindle Unlimited When They Already Have "Thousands" in Scribd?

The hot publishing news story this week has everyone talking excitedly, but it’s left me scratching my head.

There’s a (paywalled) story over on The Bookseller reporting that the Commonwealth divisions of HarperCollins will soon have ebooks in Kindle Unlimited (but only in the UK and Australia).

I haven’t seen the original article, but from what I have heard there are very few details to be had. We don’t know the payment terms, exclusivity requirements, or the number of titles that will be affected.

I do however have the statement from HarperCollins UK (this is why I waited to post):

We are testing participation with Kindle Unlimited in the UK with a limited number of our ebooks to understand how readers use the service and to ensure we are exploring all possible avenues for our authors. We believe there is opportunity to drive sales through Kindle Unlimited and a la carte sales by allowing readers as much choice as possible in how they access content.

If that is really all that is known about the deal then I really do not understand why everyone is so excited.

The major publishers have been in the subscription ebook market for years and years. They’ve had ebooks in Scribd and Bookmate and (the late) Oyster since forever, and there are even publishers with books in Kindle Unlimited under the same exclusivity and payment terms that authors get. What’s more,  I checked with Remi Harad of Scribd and was told "we have thousands of titles from HarperCollins on our platform, and we add hundreds of thousands of new titles in the platform every year".

A couple of HarperCollins' competitors even launched a subscription ebook service Germany; it’s called Skoobe, and it belonged to Holtzbrink (parent of Macmillan) and Bertelsman (parent of Random House) before the German book retailer Thalia bought a 50% stake.

So this week’s news is a huge deal – compared to what, exactly? Can anyone tell me?

Is it the fact Amazon is involved?

image by Jamais Cascio via Flickr

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Mark Williams – The New Publishing Standard October 3, 2019 um 4:27 am

LOL! It was you, Nate, who considered it a big deal five years ago almost to the day, when HarperCollins signed up with Bookmate and *not* with KU.

Your headline: "HarperCollins Signs Deal With Bookmate – but Not Kindle Unlimited."

Your take: "But I will note that Bookmate has a deal which Amazon has not yet secured for Kindle Unlimited. Following the deal between S&S and Denmark-based Mofibo, this is the second time in only a couple weeks that a smaller ebook subscription service scored a contract with a major US trade publisher which Amazon could not get."

So it’s a big deal when a Big 5 publisher does *not* sign a deal with KU, but not a big deal when one does?

Was it the fact that Amazon was not involved?

Nate Hoffelder October 3, 2019 um 11:39 am

Dude, do I really have to explain the concept of headlines to you? Seriously?

And yes, that was five years ago, which is exactly why I think this week’s news is five years too late to be important. Thank you for making my point for me.

Disgusting Dude October 3, 2019 um 6:52 am

The difference is money.

KU payouts are fairly big money. Scribd…not as much.
HC owns Harlequin which is in the romance business and romance skews heavily digital and Indie (and KU). In fact, a lot of KU is reverted Harlequin.
It would be helpful to know which handful of HC titles are going into KU but odds are it’s just an experiment to see if there’s more money in a few hundred titles on KU than thousands in Scribd.

Nate Hoffelder October 3, 2019 um 7:43 am

Except we don’t know the payment terms.

Disgusting Dude October 3, 2019 um 9:07 am

Terms don’t matter as much as volume when it comes to subscription rentals.
(Absolute numbers may be proprietary but $300M payouts means KU subscribers well over a million, possibly millions. That makes even BPHs take notice.)
More per book may not mean much if few sign up.
Hence the experiment part.

Erin October 3, 2019 um 9:30 am

I’m excited about this news and hope it comes to the US.

I don’t use Scribd, but I do use KU. I do intend to subscribe to Scribd and get rid of my Audible subscription – was waiting for any holiday sales and planning this at the end of November.

CB October 4, 2019 um 6:26 am

It’s a big deal because scribd doesn’t work on Kindle ereader and Kindle ereaders like the paperwhite is used by more readers than all the other ereaders put together I’m very excited and hope that it comes to the United States soon

tired October 4, 2019 um 8:02 am

I don’t understand the point of this article. Scribd is esoteric at best and almost anyone that owns an ereader or uses the Kindle app on their mobile device knows about Kindle Unlimited. Even knowing about Scribd, mobile device oriented readers would have to install an extra app, and eink oriented readers can’t use it at all.

This is good news, it inches KU a little bit closer to being a viable service.

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