In April 2017, Netflix reported having over 98 million subscribersworldwide, including more than 50 million in the United States. Deezer currently has 16 million monthly active users, and 6 million paid subscribers as of 29th Jan 2017. In June 2017, Spotify reported to have over 140 million monthly active users, with over 50 million paying subscribers.
Subscription services are well and truly here to stay. This is how people now access movies, TV series, music…and eBooks.
This is why we believe it’s important to include subscription services in your distribution, and so have partnered with a variety of subscription bookstores. For this “What to expect when you are publishing” post, I have decided to focus on the business model instead of a specific store. Here is a quick presentation of the main services out there.
- Kindle Unlimited: For $9.99, subscribers in the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain, Brazil, France, Mexico, Canada, Germany, India, Australia, and Japan can read as many eBooks and listen to as many audiobooks as they want from Amazon KU’s catalog.
The conditions to get into Kindle Unlimited vary depending on your catalog and status (publishing house or independent author). When it comes to authors, getting into KU means actually publishing on KDP select, which requires exclusivity (you know, by now, how we feel about that). The conditions are detailed on Amazon’s website. I also invite you to read @JaneFriedman’s informative post on the subject (the post was published when KU was first opened to authors, so conditions may be a bit different today). As for us over at StreetLib, every year Amazon makes a selection of books from our catalog to put on Kindle Unlimited.
- Kobo Plus: Kobo just launched their own subscription service only available in the Netherlands (probably as a test). And as we announced a couple of week ago: we are in! Subscribers pay the same $9.99/month fee (after a 30-day trial) for access a Dutch and English catalog.
You can get into Kobo Plus via Kobo Writing Life or aggregators like Draft2Digital and, of course, StreetLib. Books put on Kobo Plus have to stay there for a minimum of 6 months, after which you can request them to be removed with 30 day’s notice. There is no exclusivity requirement for books on Kobo Plus.
- Scribd: Often referred to as the “Netflix of books”, Scribd is an American distribution service founded in 2007 and available in English, Spanish and Portuguese. With 500K paying subscribers and one million titles (!), Scribd offers unlimited access to its catalog for $8.99/month after a free one-month trial.
They haven’t developed a direct way for publishers or authors to distribute with them, but are building partnerships with both publishers and distributors. To get your book into Scribd, you need to go through one of their partner distributors including Smashwords, INscribe Digital, BookBaby, Draft2Digital and, of course, StreetLib!
- Playster: Originally from Canada, Playster is a global subscription-based entertainment service, providing on-demand movies, tv, music, ebooks and audiobooks. Users get unlimited access to their wide catalog in all media formats for a $24.95 monthly fee. They can also choose to sign up only for books (their book catalog boasts over 1 million titles, and growing) for just $9.95/month.
To get your books on Playster, you can contact them directly or go through a distributor such as ourselves. You can see detailed conditions (no exclusivity, etc.) on their blog article.
- 24Symbols: From Spain, this online streaming service also has social sharing possibilities. It holds more than 500,000 titles in English and 7 other languages. Their premium subscription is for €8.99 per month. It also works with DigiBooksClub, which is a credits based digital reading platform. Subscribed users receive 100 credits that they can exchange for eBooks, and can buy more credits when needed.
24Symbols can be reached via one of their partners like Draft2Digital or — once again — StreetLib.
- Nubleer: Based in Mexico City, Nubleer is a subscription service providing books, magazines and newspapers in apps and on their website. Their content and platforms are in Spanish and cover all over Latin America. Users get unlimited access to their catalog of more than 20K items for $4.99/month.
As per 24Symbols and Scribd, Nubleer can be reached by independent authors and publishers via multi-channel distributors such as ourselves.
The business models
Because subscribers aren’t paying the full price of each book they read, business models for this type of publications are quite unique.
Some have a simple system whereby the publisher (be it the author directly or a publishing house) gets the usual royalties as soon as a reader has read a certain amount of the book (e.g. 24 Symbols and Scribd).
More and more, companies are opting for a shared revenues system. This is where the publishers’ royalties depend on the number of their books that have been read, the number of subscriptions and the total number of books read overall.
The principle behind this system is that the more books are on the service, the more people will want to subscribe. So, the more subscriptions there are, the more the service AND the publishers earn. It does not only depend on the number of your books that were read; you also earn more money as the the subscription platform grows.
The road to the future
I don’t pretend to be psychic, I just believe in user trends.
A few days ago, I attended an international digital distributor’s conference, and a panel member underlined the difficulty of making subscription service appealing to readers: who’s going to pay a monthly fee when they probably don’t buy a book every month? A valid point…to some extent.
There are plenty of people who buy books buy the dozen, especially school books and other study books, children’s books, self help and management books, etc. And, on top of that, there are the keen readers who devour a book every week.
And as users’ needs evolve, so will the business models and even the format. I don’t see why eBooks will not follow in the footsteps of other media.
So while readers may not all be using subscription services to date, their number is only set to grow.
And as we always say: wider is wiser. This is our mantra, and I will repeat it like a broken record until my fingers fall off. Why exclude a channel where someone might find and read your book? The bigger your distribution, the better.
I’m AC de Fombelle: book lover and tech aficionado, working for the thrive of StreetLib internationally (which really means working for the thrive of books). I write, scribble, rhyme sometimes and tell stories. Here and there you will find me, publishing blog posts and always happy to converse and answer the needs of StreetLib’s community. I love cinema and am always on the move.