HarperCollins is the latest publisher to tinker with a Netflix-style e-book subscription service, announcing on Tuesday that it has struck a deal to make its backlist books available on Scribd, a Web site for sharing documents and books.
Scribd, with a generous base of 80 million visitors to its site each month, said it was positioned to become a prominent e-book subscription service, in which consumers pay a flat monthly fee and receive access to a large catalog of e-books in exchange.
Brian Murray, the chief executive of HarperCollins, said he was encouraged to sign on partly because of consumer interest in subscription models for music, television and radio. The idea has been circulating in publishing for years, but it has generated little traction so far. Oysterbooks.com, a venture introduced last month, offers consumers access to more than 100,000 books for a monthly fee of $9.95.
“There’s been a few small pilots but they’ve been really small start-ups,” Mr. Murray said in an interview. “Scribd has an opportunity to really become a player in the e-book space.”
But with only one major publisher on board, the subscription service will be a tough sell for consumers who are accustomed to the seemingly endless selection of books on Amazon.com or BN.com. Scribd’s e-book subscription service already includes books from smaller publishers including Rosetta Books, Workman, Sourcebooks and Indiana University Press.
The addition of HarperCollins means that subscribers will have access to literary fiction (“The Family Fang: A Novel” by Kevin Wilson), humor (“The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee” by Sarah Silverman) and memoir (“Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham”).
“The main thing publishers of all kinds want is more readers, more distribution and more revenue,” said Trip Adler, the chief executive of Scribd. “We’re building more of a destination site for readers.”
Subscribers are allowed to store as many as 10 books at a time and read them on mobile apps, computers and e-readers.