Marketplace Scratch Pad

The newest bookstore

Scott Jagow May 18, 2009

Today, the document-sharing site, Scribd, opens an online
bookstore that’s kind of like iTunes. You can buy whole books or parts of them. Scribd is counting on the publishing world to join in and avoid what happened to the music industry with piracy.

On Scribd’s new platform, publishers set their own prices, and they get 80% of the revenues. says prices “currently range from $1 for a graphic novel panel to $5,000 for an in-depth market-research report on China.”

The LA Times talked to San Francisco writer, Kemble Scott. His first novel was published in paperback. His new book is debuting on Scribd for $2:

Scott chose the digital route for its immediacy. His thriller includes a number of contemporary references such as swine flu and Susan Boyle, a Scottish singer who rose to media stardom on the wings of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. “Publishing a book the traditional way can take a year to 18 months from the time you find a publisher to the time it ends up on store shelves,” Scott said. “Now I can publish a book instantly that makes the most contemporary pop culture references of the day.”

Social media meets the bookstore. I can hardly wait for the first Twittered book.

Just kidding… (?)

I also think it’s interesting that Scott will make more money, per copy, on his e-book than he did with his paperback publishing contract. Of course, will he be able to sell as many copies? That’s the question.

So far, content on Scribd has been free. People upload everything from research papers to family recipes. But one reason Scribd is trying a paid model is to get ahead of book piracy. Last week, the New York Times had a story about unauthorized copies of books turning up on Scribd. Scribd’s new model could nip it in the bud:

“If iTunes started three years earlier, I’m not sure how big Napster and the subsequent piratical environments would have been, because people would have been in the habit of legitimately purchasing at pricing that wasn’t considered pernicious,” said Richard Sarnoff, a chairman of Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, the world’s largest publisher of consumer titles.

What do you think? Will you buy an e-book for $2 instead of a paperback for $15?

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