Scribd Presents More Opportunities for Publishers With E-Commerce Channel Launch
San Francisco-based Scribd, a social publishing site, announced this week that it will begin to monetize its document-sharing capability. With the beta launch of its Scribd Store (www.Scribd.com/store), users are now able to upload and sell their written works. Previously, access to all material on Scribd had been free.
Sellers utilizing the Scribd Store will receive 80 percent of the revenue, with Scribd pocketing the remaining 20 percent. The seller sets the price of a document, or may choose an automatic pricing option that generates a rate based on a cost-sales analysis of similar items in the Scribd Store. The minimum price for documents sold on Scribd is $1.
Currently, the Scribd Store is only open to buyers and sellers in the United States, with international launches to follow, the company reports. Documents purchased on Scribd may be read on Scribd.com, downloaded to a PC, printed, or made accessible through Web-enabled mobile phones. According to Scribd, it will soon launch an iPhone application.
Opportunities for Book Publishers
In March, Scribd announced partnerships with several major book publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and Berrett-Koehler. At the time, many publishers were using the site as a marketing tool. As an example, Scribd Content and Marketing Manager Kathleen Fitzgerald cites Random House author Tess Gerritsen. When Gerritsen was releasing a new book, Random House uploaded a backlist title of Gerritsen's to give the author increased exposure. "[Gerritsen] benefitted greatly from that," says Fitzgerald. "She attracted an entirely new and young audience. … She got huge exposure."
Now, with the launch of the Scribd Store, publishers are also using the site to generate income. Travel guide publisher Lonely Planet, for example, is selling standalone city chapters of its country guides on the site for those travelers who are only interested in a particular city rather than an entire country.
"We are thrilled to be partnering with Scribd to bring Lonely Planet information and advice to a new set of travelers on a tailored basis," says Matt Goldberg, CEO, Lonely Planet Publications. "Our goal is to empower travelers to get to the heart of a place, whether they choose a guidebook, a mobile application or a digital chapter from Scribd."
Since the Scribd Store announcement earlier this week, Fitzgerald already has noticed increased interest from book publishers. "… We've definitely noticed an uptick," she says, "especially in the medium-sized and small publishers."
As with any digital file sharing and selling, copyright infringement is a concern for many publishers. "We are definitely [Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)] compliant," says Fitzgerald. "And we've gone above and beyond and created a copyright management system (CMS)," which helps to prevent the upload of unauthorized works onto the site.
If a document is removed from Scribd because it was uploaded without authorization, a "unique digital fingerprint" of that file is created and added to the CMS, Fitzgerald explains. Scribd users also may proactively add documents to the CMS to ensure that they are not uploaded illegally. All documents uploaded to Scribd are compared against the CMS, and if an official copy of a document already exists in the CMS, future uploads from other sources will not be allowed.
Additionally, publishers and other users may sign up for alerts based on, for instance, a certain phrase or book title. If a document is uploaded containing the words specified in the alert, an email is automatically sent to the alert subscriber to notify them.
As with other user-generated sites, such as YouTube, the burden does ultimately lie on the copyright holder to patrol the Scribd site for possible infringement. One publisher, who had discovered more than eight of his titles illegally uploaded to Scribd, recently contacted Book Business to express frustration that the onus is on the publisher to police the Web, and specifically Scribd.
If an unauthorized document is detected on Scribd, a DMCA takedown request may be downloaded from the Scribd site and submitted to the company. "Once we receive a valid DMCA takedown request, we promptly remove the unauthorized upload," says Fitzgerald.