In the battle of the ebook subscription services, Scribd is getting more personal in an attempt to differentiate itself from competitions, namely Amazon and Oyster. The San Francisco-based company is announcing a set of new features to improve browsing through its half-million titles. The improvement isn’t only mean to help you find what you’re looking for but also provide recommendations based on an advanced set of alternatives coupled with human curation.
Scribd cofounder and CTO Jared Friedman says that data gathered from user behavior on the service has revealed that serendipitous discovery is the primary way subscribers find content. That information led Scribd to creating personal bookstores for each of its 80 million active readers. “ We’ve built every reader their own personalized bookstore, with the human touch readers love, that they are now able to carry around in their back pocket,” Friedman tells the Daily Dot.
Scribd’s new personalization features come at a crucial time in the business’ lifecycle. Amazon’s new service Kindle Unlimited, offers more titles (600,000) for $9.99—a dollar more than Scribd’s plan. Scribd has two of the five major book publishers—Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins included in its library while Amazon has none of the big five. Personalization will be a key battleground in the Netflix-for-ebooks space, given that Amazon purchased leading book community and recommendation site Goodreads in March 2013.
Book recommendations are crucial to reducing churn for ebook subscription sites. Being able to select from hundreds of thousands of titles can be overwhelming, so offering readers next-read suggestions based on their behavior increases the time spent on the service (and user experience). As Friedman points out, the ability to make suggestions that come from the site’s longtail titles (non-bestsellers) creates a high level of user loyalty—and that’s precisely what Scribd needs give the competitive market it’s found itself in.