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Does Simon & Schuster's Scribd deal challenge the Kindle?

June 12, 2009 |  8:27 am


Publisher Simon & Schuster is set to announce a partnership with electronic book purveyor Scribd today, according to a report in the New York Times. The publisher will make books by Stephen King, Dan Brown and about 5,000 others available through Scribd in e-book format for the Sony Reader, other devices and viewing online. But Scribd e-books are not made for the Kindle.

E-books are still a small share of the market: In April, sales were about $12 million, compared with more than $200 million for adult hardcovers and paperbacks. But e-book sales are bound to increase, perhaps significantly, and these days are coming to be increasingly seen as the stake your claim / land grab / run for the hills period on the e-book frontier.

In that wild landscape, Amazon's Kindle has dominated.

But it may not be the ideal e-reader choice for publishers. Amazon's format is proprietary -- it doesn't move to other e-readers (Scribd's does) -- and Amazon maintains control over prices and the percentage of profits publishers will take away. The online bookseller reportedly shares only about half of the profits with publishers -- while Scribd will keep just 20%.

Simon & Schuster's announcement gives more oomph to a player other than Amazon, to a format that can work on multiple non-Kindle readers. And this format, which has sparked exhaustive industry discussions about piracy, has not been fully embraced by a major publisher before.

“We are interested in getting our books in front of consumers in as many formats and distribution platforms as possible,” Ellie Hirschhorn, chief digital officer of Simon & Schuster, told the New York Times. So far, their books are available for the Kindle, too.

Is Simon & Schuster making a significant move against Amazon? Or is it just hoping to utilize more delivery networks for its books?

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A Kindle. Credit: jblyberg via Flickr