Macmillian Is the Latest Big 5 to Join Oyster and Scribd

This week Macmillian joined HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster in offering titles on subscription streaming services Oyster and Scribd. The two services, frequently dubbed “Netflix for books,” cost around 10 dollars a month for unlimited reading. The news was greeted with a lot of fanfare in the tech world, but the news isn’t terribly surprising since Macmillian CEO John Sargent had written an open letter last month about considering subscription services despite having just signed a new deal with Amazon:

Through great innovation and prodigious amounts of risk and hard work, Amazon holds a 64% market share of Macmillan’s e-book business. As publishers, authors, illustrators, and agents, we need broader channels to reach our readers.

In our search for new routes to market, we have been considering alternative business models including the subscription model. Many of you know that we have long been opposed to subscription. We have always worried that it will erode the perceived value of your books. Though this significant long-term risk remains, we have decided to test subscription in the coming weeks. Several companies offer “pay per read” plans that offer favorable economic terms. We plan to try subscription with backlist books, and mostly with titles that are not well represented at bricks and mortar retail stores.

As the above indicates, Macmillian is hardly giving its entire catalog to Oyster and Scribd. Instead, the users now have access to about 1,000 Macmillian backlist titles. However, if the backlist titles do well, they may well keep adding titles including new release. Some books that Oyster and Scribd users can enjoy titles from Ursula K. Le Guin, Mario Vargas Llosa, George R.R. Martin, Janet Evanovich, and more.

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