Monday, May 18, 2009

Scribd today iTunes Tomorrow?

Last December Social publishing firm Scribd announced that it has raised $9 million and had hired George Consagra, former chief operating officer of Bebo, as its president. Since then the news has been ‘mixed’, it now claims 60 million visitors a month, has got some support from some publishers uploading their content and on the downside a significant amount of bad press over their hosting of copyright infringed materials. Inherently it is a document sharing site – a YouTube for documents, letting anyone upload sample chapters of books, research reports, homework, recipes and the like. Users can read documents on the site, embed them in other sites and share links over social networks and e-mail. It claims to have amassed 35 billion words in a mix of books, PowerPoint presentations, legal briefs, and other documents.

Today Scribd has moved up a gear announcing it will be an ecommerce site enabling publishers, authors and owners to charge for their materials so moving from YouTube to eBay, or as they hope iTunes. A logical step and one that should result in a deluge of previously self published materials, publisher experiments and without doubt some more questionable pirate works. The new store will enable users to set their own price for their work and keep 80% of the revenue. They can also decide whether to encode their documents with DRM security software that will prevent their texts from being downloaded or freely copied.

Scribd has also announced plans for an application for the iPhone next month and that it is also building a database of copyrighted works in an attempt to help filter out pirate works and negate publisher’s fears and frustrations. Scribd may hope that by enabling publisher to make money it can mollify its critics but may be hard for publishers to back a venture that is at the same time seen to be undermining them.

The interesting aspect will be not the mainstream publishing works which will no doubt be poured in by many eager to see if they can make extra revenue at no cost but with self published works. Will it change the vanity market from print on demand to online? Will it bring more short stories or serialised stories to the market? Will it undermine the position of the publisher who will now clearly site alongside every budding author on what may be a level playing field? Will it provide the market tested slushpile of the future? Will the database of copyright be seen to perform or undermine its adoption?

We now await the market reaction and obvious response from others such as Wattpad.

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