Will there come a point in the near future when physical books printed on paper will be regarded as little more than an anachronism? The growing popularity of e-book platforms, such as the new Amazon Kindle 2, as well as the recent transformation of several tech magazines from physical magazine publishers to exclusively online-only entities, might be harbingers of a new era. And with today's announcement that several major book publishers will be making some of their content, such as entire novels, available for free on Scribd
, "the world's largest social publishing website
," another potential nail might have just be driven into the physical book-publishing world's coffin.
Scribd is essentially a site for those looking to self-publish their writings. It is also a platform that some sites, such as the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, use as means for embedding documents--virtually anyone can embed Scribd content into a Website using the Scribd-supplied embed codes (which are similar to the embed codes for YouTube videos). Scribd documents can also be downloaded as PDF files. Scribd also has a social networking aspect as well, allowing readers to engage in discussions about published content and related topics. Scribd allows users to upload documents in a variety of file formats
, such as MS Word or Adobe Acrobat (PDF), and then the documents get converted to Scribd's Flash-based "iPaper," rich-document format. Scribd claims that is has over 50 million readers.
Not all of Scribd's content, however, is meant just for lovers of the written word. Sometimes more questionable content makes its way onto Scribd, such as the document
we reported about yesterday that purported to include user names and passwords of about 8,000 Comcast customers (Comcast claims that only about 700 of the listed accounts were real).
The major book publishers that are partnering with Scribd include "Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman Publishing Co., Berrett-Koehler, Thomas Nelson and Manning Publications
." A number of these publishers had already been uploading content to Scribd for a few months on a trial basis. These publishers will upload content that includes "entire novels, sneak preview chapters and exclusive excerpts from best-selling authors and book series
." All of this content will be available for free."These partnerships help cement Scribd's position as the online destination for readers while giving publishers a completely fresh platform to reach a new audience of millions... Now, in addition to original writings and documents contributed by our users -- short stories, research reports, even recipes and sheet music -- readers can discover premium works by best-selling authors on Scribd."
-- Trip Adler, CEO and co-founder of Scribd
The New York Times reported
earlier this week that book sales in the U.S. are faring much better than many other industries, and books sales in Europe are actually growing--so the timing is right for the publishers to try to capture more readers. That said, this could also serve as a grand experiment for future distribution models as well--perhaps we'll eventually be reading all our books for free, as long as we're willing to sit through an ad or two every few pages. Or after reading an excerpt online, it could be a very simple process to purchase the rest of the book with just a few clicks and download it to your e-reader... Oh wait; we can already do that with the Kindle.