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Scribd launches digital book subscription service

The company is the latest to enter the digital book subscription arena with an $8.99 monthly fee and HarperCollins as its first major content partner.

Scribd co-founder and CEO Trip Adler shows off the various mobile versions of Scribd in CNET's New York offices.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Scribd, once billed as the YouTube for documents, has joined a handful of other companies dipping their toes into the digital book subscription arena and has signed Harper Collins as its first major publishing partner.

Scribd CEO Trip Adler told CNET that the company has been beta testing the new service with its premium subscribers for several months. Those subscribers, who pay $8.99 a month to access premium content on Scribd, now will have access to the "majority" of HarperCollins US and HarperCollins Christian backlist catalogs. New subscribers to Scribd's digital book subscription service also will be charged $8.99 a month to gain access to all of Scribd's premium content.

HarperCollins' new releases and best sellers won't be available to subscribers, but they will be available for purchase on Scribd.

A close-up of the new service running in a Web browser. Scribd

Adler says the company is working on signing up other publishers to participate in the service and expects to expand its offerings throughout the coming year. The idea, of course, is to move from being the YouTube for documents to being the Netflix of digital books.

Other start-ups have launched book subscription services, including Oyster. It's unclear whether Amazon will launch one. With its FreeTime Unlimited package, Amazon already has what amounts to a subscription service for kid-friendly content, so it doesn't seem like that big of a stretch for it to expand into a subscription service for grown-up content.

But for now, anyway, Adler says his company has a leg up on the competition. It already has a subscription service in place that, according to Adler, has been growing at 60 percent each month since its launch in early 2013. Also, Scribd has amassed more than 80 million active users and a global library of more than 40 million books and documents, in 100 countries and 80 languages worldwide.

"We've been planning this for a while and we are very excited to finally get it launched," Adler said. "It's a natural fit for Scribd and great opportunity to expand our revenue while serving our customers. It's an exciting new direction."

Scribd has apps for iOS and Android devices. Scribd