Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scribd Just Changed the Game

Worlds collided for me yesterday when I opened my email to find a press release from Marvel. While I don't talk much about it on this blog, I'm a huge comic fan and I've hosted a comic book podcast called Secret Identity since 2006.

This particular press release was interesting to me as a comic fan, an indie author and a reader in general. Marvel announced that they were partnering up with the subscription service Scribd to offer hundreds of their collected editions to Scribd subscribers. Among the characters specifically mentioned were Spider-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America and Hulk.

This was the icing on the cake of a larger announcement by Scribd that they're adding over 10,000 comics and graphic novels to their service.

Now prior to this, Scribd wasn't necessarily doing too much to differentiate itself from either Oyster or Kindle Unlimited, outside of being a buck cheaper a month (Scribd is $9 a month to Oyster and Amazon's $10 a month fee). While both Scribd and Oyster have publishers that Kindle Unlimited doesn't, Scribd had the smallest library of the three services.

Which is what makes the addition of comics a huge game-changer for Scribd. Amazon and Oyster have not extended their services to include unlimited comics, so Scribd is striking first here. And when you add over 10,000 comics by big publishers like Marvel, Archie, IDW and BOOM!, you've added a library worth paying for access to.

To be honest, I didn't care about any of these services until this week. And I've thought from the beginning that Amazon made a huge mistake not bundling Kindle Unlimited with their Prime subscription. So I believe there is a nice window of opportunity here for Scribd to stake a much bigger claim in this space before their competitors can react.

But make no mistake, Amazon with react. And they are well-positioned to do so. First off, they already own ComiXology, the number one digital comics platform. Millions of people are already getting their digital comics through ComiXology, but they're paying per issue. Amazon could choose to offer a subscription service right through the ComiXology platform, letting subscribers access the already huge library there for a flat fee. Or, Amazon could decide to extend their Kindle Unlimited service to include comics which they already have Kindle versions of. Either way, they have the capacity to add comics without having to reinvent what they're doing.

I feel like Oyster is the one who is going to lose out here. Scribd beat them to the punch and they don't have the resources Amazon does to counter.

It's going to be an interesting few months. If Scribd takes off in the comics space, expect Amazon to react sooner than later. Either way, this is great for consumers, as these three services will have to continue to add value or become obsolete.

One thing I haven't looked into yet is how each of these services work with indie authors. I'll be doing that and posting about it here as well.