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Ebook subscription services get a boost with help from Macmillan

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Another big publishing house enters the subscription book app game

Streaming services like Netflix and Spotify have already changed the way we watch movies and listen to music, but book subscription services have taken a little longer to catch on. Now it looks like that might be changing. Today the publishing giant Macmillan announced a partnership with Oyster and Scribd, two competing apps that offer all-you-can-read books for a flat monthly fee. Macmillan is the third of the Big Five publishing houses to back Oyster and Scribd, behind HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster.

Macmillan will add over 1,000 titles each to the Oyster and Scribd libraries, pushing Oyster's ebook count over 1 million, while nudging Scribd past the half million mark, including audiobooks. When we talked to Oyster co-founder Willem Van Lancker back in November, the app boasted a library of around 500,000, so its ability to double that number in a few months is no small feat.

Macmillan will add 1,000 titles to the Oyster and Scribd libraries

But that doesn't mean the average reader will find their options limitless, or even good. Those 1,000 ebooks will come from Macmillan's back catalog, which means the available books won't include any recent releases. In an open letter in December, Macmillan CEO John Sargent said the company planned to pad subscription services with "titles that are not well represented at brick and mortar retail stores." Even so, the move is a good sign for anyone invested in the future of the publishing industry. Despite some reluctance (Penguin, Random House, and Hachette are still holding out) the Big Five's begrudging efforts to adapt to a new business model bodes well for publishing's inevitably bumpy road ahead.

Meanwhile, Amazon is still struggling to convince big publishing houses to get behind its own ebook subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, despite settling the contract feud with Hachette and Simon & Schuster recently. All three services cost slightly less than $10 per month, so the verdict's still out on what it will take to pull ahead: Amazon's muscle, Oyster's youthful prowess, or Scribd's come-from-behind tenacity. Of course, you could always ignore it all and just get your ebooks from the library.