International Insights: Subscription

For this weeks edition of the Alliance of Independent Authors International Insights hosted by Mark Williams of The New Publishing Requirement, were proceeding to membership designs.

Mark Williams of The New Publishing Standard

We also take on Amazon imprint authors and huge name authors like JK Rowling who make money regular rates, not page-read rates (so a minimum of not consuming into that $300 million). So, top earners can do really well out of KU.

… and this is a huge however … we can not choose in and out of KU for this or that nation. Its all or nothing, and all ways being unique with Amazon for our enrolled ebooks.

When we step outside our Amazon comfort-zone there are no exclusivity requirements. When an indie puts titles into Scribd we can also do so in Storytel, Nextory, BookBeat, 24Symbols, Skoobe, Bookmate, Audioteka, Kobo Plus, Ubook, Legimi, Leamos, Nubleer, Perlego, Bidi … And thats prior to we start taking a look at micro-subscription services in countries like the Czech Republic or Bangladesh or Norway or … And then theres the specialist subscription services like Epic!, for instance, that is used by 20 million kids in the US alone.

All that still leaves the issue that, as we all understand, Kindle Unlimited is the only show in town. As ever, truth is frequently a really different and far more intriguing tale, particularly for internationalist strategies with international goals.

Okay, so theres no area here to explain about every one. Rather, let me wind up this post with an appearance at some current market headings that best illustrate the exciting opportunities in worldwide subscription numerous indies ignore, and a lot more reward as an afterthought.

In September, Audible released, finally, in Spain, and with an endless service. Its really not the very first time Audible has gone unrestricted. It did so in Japan at launch, although that didnt last long, and has been endless in Italy considering that 2016. But the Spain launch is substantial in that it takes place in 2020, at a time when the customer love affair with unrestricted subscription has actually never been more powerful, while publishers– or rather, publishers in the United States and UK– stay figured out to keep the unlimited model at bay.

Of course, is that Amazon does not provide us global reach– even with its retail side (see ALLi International Insights post on Amazon here). When authors decide into Kindle Unlimited (Amazons exclusive reader membership service), we concurrently pull out of a prospective audience that overshadows Amazons reach lot of times over.

Safe to say its been growing given that then, not least in the 2020 pandemic, which has actually seen interest in books on need services rise all over. And in November 2019 Scribd picked up $58 million in fresh funding, which as I stated in TNPS at the time was a note of confidence in the model, not just the business.

As an endless subscription service, consumers pay a fixed charge each month for limitless access to the KU catalogue in the given nations. While Amazon doesnt share its customer numbers it has actually informed us that in 2019, for example, KU paid out over $300 million in royalties to getting involved authors– that is to say, indies and little presses using KDP.

Membership. The really word sends shiver the spines of some Indies– specifically those who have tried Kindle Unlimited (KU) and discovered it didnt meet their expectations. And yet other indies swear by KUs advantages and gladly compromise a larger audience to be exclusive with Amazon.

So lets start with a glimpse at where Amazons Kindle Unlimited membership service is available: United States, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Australia. Kindle China is of course not a choice for KDP users, so we can leave out that here, leaving 13 countries. Note Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Singapore, Amazon Saudi Arabia and Amazon United Arab Emirates do not have KU, and in reality the latter 3 do not even have a Kindle shop. Thats still a remarkable show– thirteen crucial markets where we can reach readers through KU is not to be sneezed at, and if we have local-language material all the better.

Thats fine for indies who desire the simple life, and a sacrifice worth making for those indies at the top of their game in the Amazon markets, who– have no doubt– can make major money from KU and select up perks.

Not here to talk about all the lots of advantages and disadvantages of that method, you can find a number of ALLi posts on the topic of being special or going broad on ALLis blog and podcast here and here. There are a couple of points we need to keep in mind as internationalist indies looking to conquer the world.

Before we leave Amazon, we still have Audible to think about. Audible, of course, is not an unlimited membership service? Well, no, other than when it is.

Yet as we see in the Nordics and elsewhere, publishers are earning money from subscription, and there are several factors at play that make membership viable for publishers.

Not here to go over page read rates and comparative retail earnings besides a suggestion that if we choose into KU then we are special with Amazon, thats not just missing out on out on all the retail chances from Apple, Google Play and Nook (see here), or from Kobo (see here), however likewise from myriad other retailers, virtual libraries and membership services all over the world, not least in nations where Amazon isnt an option. For a closer take a look at Amazons reach and restrictions, see here.

As with KU, exclusivity was required by ACX– a digital lockdown that naturally matched Amazon, damaged the opposition, and left many indies feeling short-changed. Obviously there are always losers and winners, however the story dominates that lots of authors– and by extension publishers generally– can not make a meaningful income from subscription.

For many of us its a business choice. We can have Book A in KU and Book B broad, and of course we just contract to ninety day stints, so can leap in and out of KU whenever it matches us, after our 3 months are up.

And after that theres Audible Escape (formerly Audible Romance) which will close after 3 years of controversy. Given that November 2017 has seen romance authors regular sales vaporize as readers realised they could get the exact same material for a one-off monthly charge, and Audibles payout to authors often came no place near making up the difference.

The launch likewise came quickly after Spotify revealed it would be getting in the United States audiobook market.

And Scribd ended 2019 reporting 25% profits development, to over $100 million. Not bad opting for a business the market– and specifically indie experts– had actually crossed out back when Oyster folded in 2015, when Scribd was anticipated by many to quickly follow suit. Yet at that time 3 Big Five publishers were reporting how pleased they were with subscription. This from Publishers Weekly at the time Oyster announced it would close:

Bookbeat in July reported an 82% income increase in Q2 of this year as it introduced in Poland. Bookbeat anticipates to have 400,000 subscribers and $50 million in revenue end 2020. This after Bookbeat had actually started the year reporting an “extraordinary” 2019 when it saw 114% development, $33 million in revenue and topped 250,000 subscribers.

In July 2020, Storytel– already running Storytel Arabia from the UAE– acquired the Arabic-language audiobook subscription service Kitab Sawti and revealed prepare for Storytel MENA (Middle East North Africa). The same month Storytel announced strategies for launches in Thailand in 2020 and Indonesia in 2021, including for excellent measure that it had actually simply struck.1.23 million customers and income was up 43%. And likewise in July Storytel Korea reported 250% growth amidst strong competitors on the Korean peninsula.

YouScribe started its Africa experience in 2019, launching in Senegal, Cote dIvoire, Tunisia, Madagascar and Cameroon, to the moderate bemusement of the few industry commentators that even noticed. By end 2019 YouScribe had actually already chosen up 300,000 subscribers in Africa.

Turkey being one of 20 Storytel markets as the year started, however days later Storytel was announcing it prepared to be in 40 markets by 2023, and expected to round off 2020 with 1. Earlier, in October 2019, Storytel had actually handled its finances to get a $50 million credit center, and in February 2020 Storytel acquired an additional $96.5 million in brand-new financing.

In October 2019, Nextory and Bookbeat were respectively reporting 130% and 127% growth. “Digital books are hotter than ever,” stated Nextory CEO Shadi Bitar.

That quote ought to be seen in the context of at-the-time regular payments for downloads, which naturally was never ever going to be sustainable. The clear takeaway from all that is that membership opens up backlist and does not necessarily cannibalise routine sales. Lets get back to more current developments in membership.

Staying in the Nordics, where Storytel, Bookbeat and Nextory are all based, September likewise saw the very first digital Gothenburg Book Fair (which pulled in 373,000 visitors), accompanied by the latest numbers from Sweden, that make stunning reading with 60% of all book sales now occurring via subscription services. That figure might drop as we head into Christmas, however that will be temporary.

No time here to check out all the remarkable books-on-demand developments elsewhere worldwide. Let me simply end this post by stating the global book market isnt just bigger than we think. Its much, much larger than we believe, and its still growing.

In March 2020, Nextory was reporting “wonderful growth” as it chose up $6 million in brand-new funding, and in April shared some stunning numbers- 94% profits growth and 110% customer development. In July 2020, we had the Q2 results: 98% earnings growth and a 58% subscriber boost. And in September 2020, Nextory reported a 68% leap in new customers over the summer season.

In August 2020, Storytel Russia was sharing the news that consumers were hot on investigator fiction and fantasy this year. And in September, Storytel got the Hebrew digital books outfit iCast, and announced a Storytel Israel launch for Q1 2021. And bringing us complete up to date, a Storytel Belgium launch was set for end 2020.

A lot more that could be said about worldwide subscription, however my time is up, so let me just end this post by discussing YouScribe, a Paris-based membership service that believed it might be fun to offer subscription throughout French-speaking Africa.

At last years (2014) Frankfurt Book Fair, HarperCollinss CEO Brian Murray said e-book membership services were the most promising of all its brand-new endeavors. “Subscription has actually turned out to be really successful in actually merchandising and mining the backlist,” he said. Macmillan expanded its subscription offerings through Scribd and Oyster over the summer season. And in a twist of timing, the statement of Oysters demise came just days after S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy applauded e-book membership services during her keynote address at the BISG annual conference in New York, informing guests that Scribd and Oyster havent cannibalized S&Ss print sales, and were driving both profits and discovery.

In February 2020 YouScribe introduced in Burkina Faso, and the most current figures suggest over half a million subscribers in Africa, and growing quick. Do not be so stunned. Africa has more than half a billion individuals online (see ALLi International Insights Africa here), so YouScribe has hardly scratched the surface.

Up-coming International Book Fairs and Festivals

( See this post on how indies can reap rewards from global book fairs).

Sep 28-Oct 7 Indonesia International Book Fair online

Oct 1-4 Big Bad Wolf Sri Lanka online

Oct 1-4 (India) Delhi Book Fair

Oct 2-18 (Spain) Madrid Book Fair online

Oct 14-18 (Germany) Frankfurt Book Fair online

Oct 22-25 (Nigeria) Ake Arts & & Book Festival online

Oct 30-31 (India) Delhi Book Fair online

Oct 30-Nov 9 (Algeria) Algiers International Book Fair online

Nov 04-14 (UAE) Sharjah International Book Fair in-person

Nov 24-30 (Philippines) Manila International Book Fair online

BookBeat– Findaway, StreetLib.

Audible– via ACX, Findaway, StreetLib.

Storytel– Ebook Partnership, Findaway,.

Kindle Unlimited– offered via Kindle Direct Publishing and BookBaby.

ALLi notes on shops pointed out in this post:.

Nextory– Findaway, StreetLib.

Scribd– via BookBaby, Draft2Digital, Ebook Partnership, Findaway, PublishDrive, StreetLib, Smashwords.

Bokus Play– Findaway.


24Symbols– Draft2Digital, Findaway, PublishDrive, StreetLib.

Nubleer– StreetLib.

Bidi– Findaway, StreetLib.

Ubook– Findaway, StreetLib.

Kobo Plus– by means of Kobo Writing Life, Dreaft2Digital, PublishDrive, StreetLib. See this ALLi International Insights post for more.

Perlego– PublishDrive, StreetLib.

Legimi– StreetLib.

Bookmate– Ebook Partnership, PublishDrive.

Leamos– Findaway, StreetLib.

Skoobe– no simple access as.

Audioteka– no simple access as.

YouScribe– StreetLib

Lets kick off with a quick look at where Amazons Kindle Unlimited membership service is offered: US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, India, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada and Australia. As an unrestricted subscription service, customers pay a fixed cost each month for limitless access to the KU catalogue in the offered countries. When an indie puts titles into Scribd we can also do so in Storytel, Nextory, BookBeat, 24Symbols, Skoobe, Bookmate, Audioteka, Kobo Plus, Ubook, Legimi, Leamos, Nubleer, Perlego, Bidi … And thats prior to we start looking at micro-subscription services in countries like the Czech Republic or Bangladesh or Norway or … And then theres the professional membership services like Epic! At last years (2014) Frankfurt Book Fair, HarperCollinss CEO Brian Murray said e-book membership services were the most appealing of all its brand-new ventures. In July 2020, Storytel– already operating Storytel Arabia from the UAE– got the Arabic-language audiobook membership service Kitab Sawti and announced strategies for Storytel MENA (Middle East North Africa).


N.B. This list is not extensive but is precise to the best of my understanding. Heres a call out to you, the reader, or possibly our pals at the numerous aggregators. Please do submit additional info or corrections in remarks so we can upgrade the list as we move forward


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