Scribd Expands Its Subscription E-Book Service With 30K Audiobooks

It was just over a year ago that Scribd officially unveiled a Netflix-style subscription e-book service. As of today, subscribers will have access to 30,000 audiobooks, too.

Co-founder and CEO Trip Adler said that this isn’t just about attracting audiobook fans to Scribd, but also introducing readers who aren’t audiobook fans to the format. After all, he noted that the tradition audiobook experience of “a stack of CDs” isn’t very enticing.

Co-founder and CTO Jared Friedman added that the big challenge was to create “a seamless shared experience.” To do that, the company has created a new audiobook section on its website and mobile apps. When it has the rights to both the text and audio versions of a book, you’ll have the option to jump back-and-forth between the two.

For example, you could start reading a book at home, then if you need to drive somewhere, you can continue  listening to the story in your car, via audiobook. (You’ll have to do a little bit of fiddling to make this happen, since Scribd doesn’t automatically sync between the text and audio versions, but Adler said, “syncing will come soon enough.”)

Another audiobook plus: While Scribd’s e-book selection, particularly from large publishers like HarperCollins, has been mostly limited to older, backlist titles, Adler said it’s “much easier to get the books quickly” on the audio side. That’s because publishers “are just a little bit more flexible” in this area, and also because Amazon-owned Audible has already established a subscription model for this format.

[Update: I conflated a couple of things things here in a way that was probably a little misleading. When asked about why Scribd was able to get newer audiobook titles, Adler’s exact words were, “Maybe part of it is that there’s already been a subscription model established in the audiobook world.” He did not explicitly reference Audible or any specific service in his comment, though he’d earlier acknowledged Audible as a competitor.]

Scribd’s audio library includes books from publishers such as Blackstone, HarperCollins, Scholastic, and Naxos. Some of the newer books: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, and The Days of Anna Madrigal by Armistead Maupin. (If you’re more interested in business books, Scribd also has The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz, Tubes by Andrew Blum, and The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, among many others.)

To make this happen, Scribd has partnered with audiobook company Findaway World. Friedman told me that his company is taking advantage of infrastructure Findaway has created for streaming audiobooks online and the work it has done in converting those books to digital.

The company is adding audiobooks without raising its $8.99 monthly subscription fee. However, Adler described that as “an introductory price.” While he wants to offer “as much value as we possibly can at an $8.99 price point,” Adler is “not ruling out” a tiered pricing plan in the future.

Scribd says its e-book service now has more than 500,000 titles. Subscriber numbers have grown an average of 52 percent each month since January 2013 (when the company quietly launched the subscription service).