October 02, 2013, 6:00 AM —
Yesterday Scribd formally launched their $8.99/month subscription service that offers unlimited access to Scribd's "huge selection, including thousands of best-sellers and new releases." Scribd also announced that HarperCollins Publishers is on-board, "making the majority of the HarperCollins US and HarperCollins Christian backlist catalog" available via the subscription service. Scribd's service is available on iOS and Android devices as well as via web browser. Once you pay for your subscription you can read as many books as you like; you'll be like Burgess Meredith's character in the Time Enough At Last episode of The Twilight Zone.
Of course if you cancel your Scribd subscription you lose access to the books. If that bothers you, you may be more interested in eReatah, which is currently in beta (you can request an invite on the site). eReatah offers 3 subscription plans: two books/month is $14.99, three books/month is $22.50 and four books/month is $29.99. You are purchasing these books, not renting them, so if you give up the service you keep the books. eReatah offers 80,000+ titles to choose from, including titles from Berrett-Koehler, Diversion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Independent Publishers Group, Ingram Content Group, Open Road Integrated Media, Simon & Schuster, Sourcebooks and Workman. Additional publishers will be coming on-board as the site exits beta and opens to the public. Like Scribd, eReatah works on iOS and Android devices, as well as web browsers (where's the Windows Phone 8 love!?).
eReatah also calls attention to its recommendation engine which "was designed in collaboration with Pattern Explorations Ltd, a company founded by Professor Nicholas Ampazis that specializes in machine learning, data mining and statistical modeling. Professor Ampazis was previously a member of The Ensemble, one of the two NetFlix Prize competitors whose solution bested Netflix’s own algorithm for predicting user ratings by more than 10%."
A third option is Oyster, which is also in beta (again, request an invite on the site). Oyster's plan is $9.95/month and offers access to 100,000 books. Oyster's biggest limitation is that it is available for iPhone and iPod Touch only, for now. iPad support is coming and the company is committed to supporting other platforms in due time.
So, something for everyone? I guess it depends on their libraries, but I appreciate the fact that eReatah comes at the concept differently than Scribd and Oyster do. I'm something of a binge reader. I'll sometimes go weeks without finding the time to read a book (keeping up on all the personal technology news comes with a price) so for me the fact the eReatah is actually selling me the books is an attractive proposition; when I fall behind in my reading I can cancel service until I catch up, but still have access to the books I selected.
More voracious readers like my friend Mogsy of BiblioSanctum would be better served with an unlimited subscription from Scribd or Oyster. She reads more books in a month than I read in a year!
Serious readers don't need me to tell them that reading can become an expensive habit; any of these services ought to be able to help you stretch your reading dollars.
I'd be interested to hear from any readers that have personal experience with these services. Personally I'm going to give eReatah a try and I'll report back with my findings.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.