Experiments

A Review of Scribl: Is Crowdpricing the Future of Ebooks?

In keeping with my “Spread it Around” marketing strategy — namely, listing my Creative Commons-licensed ebooks and audiobooks everywhere possible — I have also listed my work on Scribl.

Who, or what, is Scribl, you’re probably asking yourself at this point.

I first heard of them through my involvement with Podiobooks. I’ve published three serialized podcast novels on their site–and am indebted to the PB community for bootstrapping myself into home audiobook recording–so I naturally perked up when the movers and shakers behind PB said they were starting Scribl.

That was a year ago.

I had some concerns about the licensing terms, concerns long since addressed (note: you probably want the 70% royalty option, not the 80% or 90% options, read the terms before you click through). So why hadn’t I uploaded my work until now?

Scribl publishes both ebooks (epub, mobi, and pdf), as well as audiobooks–and audiobooks, for those of you lucky enough to have them, lift you out of the crowd. So, armed with my exquisitely hand-crafted, perfectly-mastered (*cough* LOL *cough*) ACX 192k mp3s, I went to upload my files.

Except Scribl requires you to upload mp3s at a bit rate of only 96k or 128k. Which is, truth be told, more than adequate for spoken word narration. But did I really feel like cracking open over a hundred files in Audacity and re-exporting them to suit Scribl’s requirements? I was busy, it wasn’t a priority, I couldn’t be bothered.

Finally got around to it last week. Their site is pristine. Perfectly put together. HTTPS enabled everywhere. Sound technical construction.

And less than a hundred total titles in the store. (In stark contrast to the Wild-West-throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-happens-but-damn-do-they-get-traffic NoiseTrade.)

That makes my five titles more than 5% of the total ebooks available on Scribl, and my three audiobooks an even higher percentage.

Hey. If you’re going to spread it around, spread. It. Around. Nome sane?

At this point you might ask, why bother?

Scribl is doing some innovative things that might one day be big. They are seriously trying to innovate the future of ebook distribution. Take crowdpricing, surely their biggest innovation: ebooks start out free. As they get more downloads, the price goes up. The more sales, the higher the price goes. Demand literally affects supply (or price, anyway, there not being a limit on the supply of any given ebook).

Other innovations are hit and miss: Their automatic genre-sorting system, based on some poorly-thought out questions about each book (that you have to answer before publishing) determines the genre your book will be listed in. As the site grows, this algorithm will break down genres still further.

I don’t like this. I don’t know about you, but I want control of what genre my book is listed in.

What else? Head over and take a look yourself, see what you think. My own perception is that Scribl is either way ahead of its time, or a glorious failure. I’m not sure which, and I doubt anyone else knows either. Barring a surge in authors joining the site, the best they can hope for is to sell their crowdpricing idea to Smashwords or Amazon or somebody. It’s the best idea they’ve got, and I’d like to see it succeed.

Written by: J.M. Porup

Novelist J.M. Porup is An American Dissident in Exile. Read More

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