Opinions in this article are the sponsor's. They are not necessarily TeleRead's, and vice versa.

A mini guide to digital entertainment services: Tips for e-book lovers and others

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PlaysterConsumerGuideToEntertainmentServicesxProof._DSC2613Subscription services are the internet’s biggest moneymaker. Jessica Alba’s online baby-and-health-products delivery service made $250 million last year, and the company is now worth over a billion dollars—astonishing growth for a company founded just four years ago. The Dollar Shave Club, which delivers fresh razors to customers’ doors every month for a monthly fee of $7 paid online, is worth a cool $615 million and growing. Netflix—the online movie and TV subscription service to end them all—is worth a massive $32.9 billion, with enough revenue and popularity to seriously threaten standard TV networks.

Digital entertainment is one of the most popular niches of the subscription industry, and you can find services for every media type: movies, games, comic books, music services, as well as e-books and audiobooks. With so many digital subscription options available to readers—Scribd, Audible, Amazon Kindle Unlimited, iBooks, Safari Books Online, 24 Symbols, Playster and more—how can you, as an e-book consumer, pick the payment model that’s right for you?

Scribd is among the most popular e-books subscription services, but they recently announced some changes to their service that are making some people reconsider their memberships. Previously, readers signed up to the service would pay an $8.99 fee each month in exchange for full access to the company’s e-books catalogue. Audiobooks were a slightly different story: Scribd has never offered unlimited audiobooks, choosing instead to offer one free audiobook per month and asking customers to pay an additional $8.99 per extra audiobook in a given pay cycle.

For heavy readers, Scribd isn’t as good an option as it once was. Under the new terms of service, the $8.99 monthly fee will give you access to three e-books per month and one audiobook. This is significantly less than the previous offer of unlimited reading, especially if you read a lot. Another limiting change is the fact that books will now be put into rotation, rather than all being available at once. Titles will be swapped out on a timed basis set at the discretion of publishers, so the selection is more limited.

Scribd has claimed that these changes will only affect the 3% of their subscriber base who read more than 3 books per month. It’s a pretty smart business move on their part that allows them to strategize their content a bit more and pay publishers less, earning them more profit—especially when you consider high-cost investment books like romance novels, which people read quickly and in huge numbers. However, for their biggest readers—who are probably their most loyal customers—it’s a bit of a slap in the face, as they’ll be getting less content than they’re used to for the same price. If you’re a light reader, Scribd has a good offer, but serious bookworms might want to look elsewhere.

Other services offer slightly different payment models. Amazon’s Audible is a $14.95/mo subscription that gives you one audiobook credit per month, with the option of buying additional credits in increments of 3 for $35.88, provided you’ve been a member for 3 months. Unused credits roll over from month to month, but the system is still quite expensive for a subscription service. 24 Symbols offers unlimited e-books for $8.99 per month, a fair price, but it’s books only. Playster offers users fully unlimited access to books and audiobooks for $9.95 per month; it’s a dollar more than Scribd and 24 Symbols, but the service is fully unlimited, which is good news for customers who can get through a lot of books in a month, or people who want to combine audiobooks and e-books to max out their reading time. iBooks operates on a slightly different non-subscription model: the app is free, and you pay for book downloads which you can keep forever.

The e-books and audiobooks market is a diverse one, with plenty of options for consumers. If you’re the type of person who likes to hold onto a book after you’ve read it, you might like iBooks, whereas if you’re an audiobooks fan with cash to burn, Audible could be a good fit. For heavy readers who want to pick from more than 250,000 books and audiobooks at a reasonable price, though, Playster offers an unbeatable option. It currently provides the best value for both combined.

(The above is sponsored content from Playster and does not necessarily reflect TeleRead’s opinions, or vice versa.)

2 COMMENTS

  1. I just spent time reading this ad that had little or no information of interest to me. I didn’t notice the “Sponsored Content” tag at the beginning. When we were asked our opinions about sponsored content and I objected, stating that this would likely happen I was assured it would not because it would be made so obvious that it was an ad and not an article.

    I have a list in my ebook related bookmarks of sites I check and Teleread has been at or near the top of that list since I first became aware of it. It’s been at the very top for a couple of years since it’s the site I check most often during the day. I’ve just moved it down a few notches.

    Barry

  2. @Barry: Thanks for the feedback! As publisher of TeleRead, I myself found the information to be factual and helpful to shoppers even if Playster highlighted its advantages over the competition. You should see the dreck we turn down—in other words, most of the would-be clients who come our way. Playster was and is in a whole different class. Beyond that, you are not within Playster’s prime demographic group—younger adults who may be more interested in renting than in owning books, movies and the rest. TeleRead does have plenty of community members in that category. We can’t please everyone with every post, sponsored or regular.

    As for identification, the post not only was tagged “Sponsored Content” on the home page, it also had a big blue bar at the top saying, “Opinions in this article are the sponsor’s. They are not necessarily TeleRead’s, and vice versa.” How much more explicit can we get? Scroll up and you’ll see the same bar. The byline on the home page and in the post even read, “By Playster.” That in itself should be a pretty good tip-off. You say you didn’t see the “sponsored” disclaimers at first, but I don’t see how much more upfront we can be. Oh, well. Not the first time we’ve disagreed. Hang around!

    Thanks,
    David

    Addendum: To be precise, “By Playster” vanished from the home page after it was displayed in the first panel (per our mosaic algorithm), but the “sponsored” tag remained, and the byline was still present in the actual post.