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Publishing News: Scribd flirting with ebook subscriptions?

Scribd launches its Float app, citizen journalism rebooted, and textbooks come to the Kindle.

Here’s a few highlights from this week’s publishing news.

Scribd takes baby steps toward ebook subscriptions

FloatLogo2.jpgScribd’s new long-form reading and reformatting platform
Float was in
the news
this week. On the surface it seems to be very much like
other content aggregator-reformatting platforms — such as Instapaper and Flipboard — that let users read
and share content from the web in easy-to-read formats.

The major difference between Float and its competitors is Scribd’s
agreement
with 150 publishers
to reformat their content. This is what will
make Scribd’s plan to become the “Netflix
of reading
” a reality. Liz Gannes talked to Trip Adler, Scribd’s
CEO, for a
post
for All Things Digital. Adler said the ultimate goal is to “be a Netflix for
written content, where users can sign up for subscriptions to get
access to a broad swath of premium articles.”

Premium articles? You mean articles from behind paywalls? Sure
sounds like it, and if so, this is where those 150 established
relationships will come in handy (just
ask Netflix
). In a
post for Wired
, Steven Levy said a subscription fee hasn’t been
established, but he touches on an idea that would make Float the
holder of the Holy Grail of digital distribution — ebook
subscriptions:

Scribd hasn’t decided what the monthly fee for that should be, but
Adler says that the $8 to $10 range of services like Netflix and
Spotify sounds about right. If the service included books — a
concept that certainly has crossed Adler’s mind — the fees might
be higher.

Now, that is a service I’d pay for, and it just might make
me buy an ereading device.

TapIn Bay Area app empowers citizen journalists

The mobile photojournalism company behind the Tackable app teamed
up
with the Bay Area Newspaper Group to launch TapIn
Bay Area
, a location-aware news app for the Bay Area. The app
allows journalists at the San Jose Mercury News to make use of citizen
journalism in a very direct way. In a
post
for GigaOm, Mathew Ingram described how it works:

The “citizen journalism” portion of the app is based around what
are called “gigs,” which are requests for information about specific
topics or news events. Journalists from the newspapers working with
TapIn or Tackable (which offers a similar system in its app) can post
these requests if they need photos or other info about something, but
other users can also create and post a “gig” through the service.

TapInBayArea.jpg

Citizen journalism isn’t new, but this mobile platform makes it a
bit more slick, integrating
Google Maps
to create a friendly user experience. From a business
standpoint, though, this isn’t the most important part of this app. As
Ingram points out, it’s bringing a much needed digital revenue source
to newspapers:

… it also allows the newspaper to offer readers Groupon-style
“daily deals” based on their location as well … An app like TapIn,
if it can manage to get enough traction with users, could give the San
Jose Mercury News and other Media News outlets a bit of a leg up (the
media company says it plans to roll TapIn out in other cities where it
owns newspapers).

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Amazon gets into e-textbook rentals

This week Amazon launched an e-textbook
rental program
on the Kindle. Broke college students might not be
rejoicing just yet, however. Several companies, including CourseSmart and BookRenter, already have delved
into the e-textbook rental market without overwhelming success.

KindleTextbookRental.png

A study
recently conducted at the University of Washington suggests ereading
devices themselves might be the problem. In a release,
first author and doctoral student Alex Theyer said:

There is no e-reader that supports what we found these students
doing. It remains to be seen how to design one. It’s a great space to
get into, there’s a lot of opportunity.

In the case of Amazon, selection also might be a barrier to
success, as one
report
found the search results “discouraging.” E-textbooks,
rental or otherwise, are not quite there, but increased
experimentation
and advancements
in digital device capabilities
may hold promise for those strapped
college students.

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