scribd logoI will have been a Scribd subscriber for a year in October, and I’ve noticed some interesting changes in my reading habits. If you’re interested in how a subscription service affects book buying and reading, follow along.

According to my Goodreads account, here’s the important data:

Since January 2014

  • Books read: 134
  • Books read through Scribd: 40
  • Purchased books read: 40
  • Library books read: 31

The remainder are a mix of review copies, Kindle Unlimited and free books.

How is that different from previous years? Going back through my Amazon and B&N purchases from 2013, I’m buying more books books than last year. My library use fluctuates wildly and is higher this year than some and lower than others, but let’s call it roughly average. My rate of reading is about the same, perhaps a bit higher than some years, but not ridiculously so.

So the first conclusion I can draw is that subscription services have not led to me buying fewer books. This year, I have purchased an average of 4.7 books a month. Last year, it was 4.4. I realize many have worried that subscriptions will cannibalize book sales, but with more than eight months of data, I can’t say that’s happening with me. (But read on because that’s only part of the story.)

You may be wondering, then, how the equation balances. I’m buying more books, reading books from Scribd and my total reading is about the same as last year. How does that work? Simple. I used to use fanfiction to stretch my book buying dollars, but now I use Scribd instead. My fanfiction reading has fallen off to almost nothing.

I also download few free books. Over the last few years, my freebie “purchases” have declined, but this year they are only around 10 books. With books from Scribd feeling like they are free, I’m more selective with the actual free books I acquire.

What do I read in Scribd? The majority of books have been a few long-running backlist series I’ve been meaning to read, but the monetary investment was daunting. We’re talking series with more than 10 books each, and, at approximately $6 per book, that’s a lot of money I’m saving. I’ve also tried some new-to-me authors, including self-published, and I’ve found plenty to keep me busy. My unread list in Scribd currently has 53 books in it, and it grows regularly.

Here’s the odd thing. I used to be publisher blind. I didn’t care who published a book and rarely noticed. Now, when I see a book I’m interested in, the publisher is the first thing I look at, sometimes even before reading the blurb. If I see it’s a Scribd publisher, the book gets added to my library. If it’s a non-Scribd publisher, I check my public library. If it’s available there, I add it to my Wish List. If it’s not available in either Scribd or the library, I add it to my eReader IQ list and often only buy it if it goes on sale.

Take note, Macmillan, Hachette and Penguin Random House. If your books were in Scribd, you’d be getting something from me. As it is, I only buy your books if they are on sale, or on my very short list of “must read” authors.

That point is worth expanding on. I just browsed my Amazon book purchases for the last few months, and the only full-price books I’ve purchased were business books (which I had to buy for personal development), authors I know personally or have “met” through my work with TeleRead, books from the afore-mentioned “must read” list and re-purchasing books I used to own in paper. In other words, I only pay full price for “sure things” these days. I do my experimenting in Scribd or from the library.

What I don’t know yet is how or if Kindle Unlimited will change things. I’ve been a subscriber to it for a month now, and I’ve read enough in it to like it. The audiobook feature is very nice, and I think I will end up using it even more. I think I will turn my subscription on and off, but it’s going to be part of my reading.

I think as more people discover the subscription model, buying patterns like mine will continue to spread. Love them or hate them, subscriptions are going to continue to affect the publishing world.