Simon & Schuster Pens Deal With Scribd to Sell Digital Titles, Should Amazon Be Scared?

Book publisher Simon & Schuster will offer 5,000 of its titles for sale digitally via document-sharing site, opening a fresh chapter in Amazon's epic struggle to dominate the e-book market with its Kindle e-reader. Best-selling Simon & Schuster editions from scribes like Dan Brown, Steven King, and Mary Higgins Clark will sell on Scribd's site, while thousands of other titles will be searchable in Scribd's database, from which users can sample 10% of those books' content and click through to purchase print editions.

The Scribd model is what Amazon must have seen coming (and feared): while Amazon sets the price of books it sells and restricts the file readability to its own Kindle e-reader, Scribd takes only 20% of whatever price the publisher chooses, granting authors and publishing houses much more leeway. Using anticopying software from Adobe, Simon & Schuster's books are formatted to read on most e-readers (but not the Kindle) and some cell phones.

About 60 million users a month visit Scribd to download documents, recipes, book excerpts and anything else that can be expressed by written word, so the extension into book sales was more inevitability than opportunity. Simon & Schuster is the first large publishing house to engage Scribd in a deal of this nature, though Scribd CEO Trip Adler confirmed to The New York Times that the company is in talks with other major publishers.


Naturally, Simon & Schuster is but the tip of the iceberg for Scribd. As Education blogger Christopher Dawson noted on ZDNet, the site has huge potential in the realm of academia. Those college course packets that have to be printed, bound and paid for with perfectly good beer money may soon be a thing of the past. As for textbooks? Amazon's done okay selling them, but giving academics a place to sell their research papers individually at a competitive rate could render obsolete the practice of collecting them into volumes.

It's not that the Kindle isn't great, but in a long-tail world where people want options, Scribd seems much better positioned to take advantage of both readers' and publishers' primary desire: choice. The Simon & Schuster deal is an important plot point in the e-book narrative, and Amazon might do well to take a page from Scribd's book.

[via The New York Times, ZDNet]

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  • Mike Zebinski

    Who are Simon & Schuster and its smoke-and-mirrors partner really damaging here? Methinks it's the consumer, not Amazon. Headline should be: "Simon & Schuster and friend unite to increase prices!" As a student who watches every dime these days, I suggest readers get your ebooks at Fictionwise, BooksOnBoard or Amazon instead - if you care at all about your pocketbook - same Simon & Schuster titles for less typically. Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of a billion dollar company) shouldn't impose their quarterly earnings concerns on readers. There have been enough bailouts. The news in this announcement is that Simon & Schuster is going to make sure people pay more for their ebooks by working with a company that built itself by selling un-authorized copies of books (stealing from authors and publishers both small and big) - like hundreds of others around the globe (check out Russia). They're probably good bedfellows if one recognizes that if a website isn't honorable with the publishing community and published authors, it's highly questionable that they would be honorable with their paying customers? There are much better deals and prices at honorable ebook websites like (now owned by Barnes and Noble), (still an independent - and the only place my friends and I have ever received good service in ebooks), Amazon (of course), Sony and others. Those companies offer a large variety of titles from big publishers and individual aspiring authors. And academics can sell their papers on those sites as well.