Some months ago, Skoobe launched an app for iOS devices, that provides reading samples of current bestsellers from more than 70 publishers (among them publishing houses like Droemer, DVA, Fischer, Goldmann, Heyne, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Lübbe, Luchterhand and Rowohlt). That already raised speculations in the German market that were confirmed on Wednesday. From now on, via the same app users are able to access the full text of a couple of thousand ebooks for a monthly subscription rate of 9,99 EUR.
Skoobe is designed as a „virtual library“. This means, that users can browse the whole assortment and borrow all ebooks as long and as often as they want. Only the number of ebooks that can be borrowed at the same time as well as the number of new ebooks per month are limited. Five ebooks at the same time are available on the user’s bookshelf, when „returning“ one, another title can be borrowed. The first 10.000 users of the app are able to access an unlimited number of new titles, from March 2013 the offer will be limited to two new titles per month! The app allows for offline reading for a period of 30 days. Every ebooks is available to every user all the same time. So, there is no „waiting list“ for popular ebooks, which might even make Skoobe a competitor to lending services of public libraries in the German market.
Skoobe is available in the Appstore for all users based in the EU or Switzerland. But currently, there are only German language titles available! An Android version is to be launched, soon.
But above all specifications and features for users - the app is superprofessionally designed and runs very smoothly -, there is another remarkable thing to mention about the company: Skoobe is a joint venture of the two German major trade publishing companies Verlagsgruppe Random House and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck plus arvato - arvato Publishers Services. This means, that Skoobe will be backed up with loads of trade content right from the start! And, it’s open to other publishers as well, due to which Skoobe is able to offer ebooks also from one of the most innovative trade publishers in the German ebook market, Bastei Lübbe. Which will probably attract even more publishers!
Skoobe is the publishers’ reaction to readers demand for popular ebook content going hand in hand with state-of-the-art reading services. Consequently Skoobe’s CEO Christian Damke explains: „In developing Skoobe, we have tried to understand the special needs of ebook readers better […]. In collaboration with our readers, we will continuously improve Skoobe to provide the best reading experience on smartphones and tablets.”
Publishers, certainly the big trade publishers, might have been underrated in their ability to apply to a radically changing market. They obviously realized, that changes in the digital market will happen; the trend towards subscription based services rather than stand-alone download is just one of them. And it’s a good sign for publishing that the publishers themselves embrace it with a rather courageous step like the launch of Skoobe. In any case, it must be considered a clever strategic move of Bertelsmann and Holtzbrinck to offer this kind of service now, and in this particular constellation as a joint force.
Sebastian Posth (@sposth) is a German publisher and publishing consultant. Disclosure: From 2009-2011 he worked as Director Digital Content Distribution for Arvato Publishers Services (VVA), one of the owners of Skoobe. There, he was responsible for the development of ebook distribution platform BIC-Media.
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