Scribd waits until Valentine’s Day has passed, then breaks romance readers hearts


Scribd, one of the last surviving e-book subscription services hoping to become the “Netflix for books,” is revising its policies to do away with unlimited lending from the service’s full library, Publishers Weekly reports.

Is it a coincidence that the change comes just after Valentine’s Day? Last year, Scribd accused romance and erotica readers of overindulging, costing the company more than it had expected. Although it had promised an “all you can eat” buffet of e-books, the company dramatically scaled back its erotica and romance offerings, to significant outcry.

Now the offerings — romance and otherwise — will be in two tiers. The new subscription model, which goes into effect in March, will allow members to select three “premium” e-books and one audio book per month. Users still will be able to select an unlimited number of titles from “Scribd Selects,” a group of books that changes each month. The cost of the service will remain $8.99.


Scribd explained the changes on its website as a move from “an all you can eat buffet, to an ‘excess in moderation’ kind of system.”

“[T]he costs of this kind of venture are incredibly difficult to feed, and while we’ve tried our best it’s simply not sustainable in the long run,” the website reads. “This isn’t corporate greed, this isn’t something we’re particularly excited about. This is something that needs to happen so we can maintain our original vision and keep bringing you what’s most important to us — a good book in your hand, anywhere you go.”

Originally a legal file-sharing site, Scribd launched its e-book subscription service in 2013, jockeying for position alongside fellow “Netflix for books” wannabes Oyster, Entitle and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. Entitle folded in 2015, and later that year, Oyster abruptly shut its doors.

The “Scribd Selects” books will be “hand picked by Scribd editors from a wide range of genres,” the company says, and readers won’t be able to keep them after they’ve read them. “Think of it more along the lines of borrowing a book from a friend, at some point you will have to give it back!,” the website explains.

Schaub is based in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter.