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Scribd subscription service cuts out bestselling romance and erotica

6 July 2015

The news that Scribd is reining back on successful erotica and romance titles exposes the weak link in the subscription model of bookselling.

Readers who are addicted to reading these books read them in large quantities and at great speed, so any subscription model which offers as many books as you want for a fee are certainly going to be in trouble. Scribd is so coy about their pricing that they seem to expect you to sign up for the free trial without knowing what the service will cost, although they have revealed it in the Guardian article we have linked to: Scribd cuts romance and erotica titles | Books | The Guardian.

Back to the erotica and romance. It is interesting that these are the categories which are in such high demand, you might have thought that fantasy and perhaps crime would also be very popular. And it's not clear why Scribd can't simply adjust the price of the subscription to make this work, but it would affect a lot of other members who are not reading these categories, and presumably the price of the subscription is carefully calibrated to attract as many readers as possible.

It's really hard for the authors whose books are being removed because they are too popular. What an irony - and what are they going to do about it? Readers won't be able to get books by some of their favourite authors and the authors are being excluded from having their books available in the subscription service.

Worse still may be the long term effect on authors' earnings, which are really endangered, not just by this specific case, but by the way in which books are being devalued. With the wildly shared expectation that things should be free on the internet, books are already under threat. It is more important than ever for authors and publishers to work together to protect copyright and make sure that authors' earnings are safeguarded.