Late last week, Scribd announced the launch of a new eBook subscription service model, allowing unlimited eBook downloads for a monthly fee. This announcement comes in the wake of similar new releases, including one from Amazon, which now offers free eBook downloads to Kindle devices for all Amazon Prime members. And let’s not forget the launch of Oyster which is offering a similar model as Scribd, though currently only available on iOS by invitation-only. All of these companies are attempting to create “Netflix for eBooks” and yet no one realizes … all of this content is already available for FREE from your local public library!
Libraries have been expanding their eContent catalogs (eBooks, AudioBooks, eMagazines, streaming music and videos) dramatically over the last several years as more titles become available. Several years ago, there was only one major eContent provider, OverDrive. Today, there’s also 3M Cloud Library, OneClickdigital, Axis360, Zinio, Freegal, and Hoopla available, to name a few. Libraries have also made a heavy push in developing mobile solutions that give their community access to all of this content. Several of our libraries have their eContent catalogs available through their apps including Santa Clara County Library; their eContent sections receive some of the highest usage in the app.
This begs the question, if all of this eContent is available for free from public libraries, and libraries are now building apps that give their patrons mobile access to all of this free content, why would anyone ever pay for a subscription? No doubt there is a real value proposition here, an unlimited subscription model has proven successful with movies (Netflix) and songs (Spotify) and will certainly be more accepted for eBooks than paying per title downloaded. Still, all of this content is already free, and the problem is, no one knows it yet.
One of the other important questions to ask of these new subscription-based eBook providers – how many different titles do they offer through their existing catalog? Scribd is currently only working with one major publisher, which means they may not have access to all of the titles that you want to download and read. Consumers may end up being required to set up subscriptions with all of the providers to make sure they have access to all of the eBooks they want.
Most Public Libraries now have access to several, if not all, of the major eContent providers. So if your local public library provides access to more content, and it’s free, this should be a very easy decision for consumers. It really boils down to how effective libraries can be at promoting this to their communities.