Scribd, the YouTube of e-books, signs major new deal

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Watch out Amazon, there's a new competitor in the e-book world.

The social publishing website, Scribd, dubbed the YouTube for digital books, has signed a deal with publisher Simon & Schuster. Starting today, visitors to the site’s Scribd Store will be able to purchase nearly 5,000 titles in e-book form, including works by Stephen King, Dan Brown, and President Jimmy Carter. The titles can be downloaded and viewed on a computer as PDFs or can be read on mobile devices such as Sony's e-book reader.

In the future, Scribd plans to launch an iPhone app so users can access content on-the-go. Simon & Schuster, whose titles also appear for download for Amazon's Kindle, will provide previews of 7,000 titles on the Scribd website that can be purchased in hardcover or paperback format.

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Scribd, which launched its "beta" site in May, draws 60 million visitors per month according to the company. The San Francisco web start-up allows users to upload their own writings or documents and lets them decide what to charge for their products. Uploaded writings can then be purchased and viewed as a PDF or printed. Simon & Schuster titles however cannot be printed.

E-book sales haven't made much of a dent in the publishing world yet (though e-book sales in 2008 hit $113 million, up from $67 million in 2007, according to the Association of American Publishers), but the struggling publishing industry is looking to Scribd, which allows publishers to set various prices rather than adhering to Amazon.com's standard $9.99, as a potential revenue booster. Authors and publishers who upload works to Scribd receive 80 percent of the earnings generated from the website. Other publishers including O'Reilly Media, which sells books on computer software, and Lonely Planet Publications, which publishes travel guides, have begun selling individual chapters on the website.

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