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Ebook distributor tries Netflix model

– Online document-sharing site Scribd is taking a page from Netflix’s success story as it sets out to create the world’s largest subscription service for digital books.

The opening chapter began Tuesday with the introduction of an ebook subscription service that will boast thousands of titles published by HarperCollins before July 2012. HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp., becomes the first of the five largest U.S. publishers to join a service vying to create an alternative to buying individual titles.

Scribd will charge $9 per month for a service that offers unlimited access to most of HarperCollins’ back catalog, as well as an assortment of other books from smaller publishers.

Recent best sellers from Harper Collins aren’t included in the subscription service, although customers will be able to buy new titles individually on Scribd’s site.

“I feel we are moving into new uncharted waters, but that’s what innovating and reading is all about,” HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray said. “I feel like this is the right deal with the right partner at the right time and we are going to learn.”

With their personal log-in, subscribers throughout the world will be able to browse through books using Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad, mobile devices running on Google Inc.’s Android software and any personal computer with a Web browser.

As long as they are logged in, subscribers will be able to stop reading a book on one device and pick up where they left off on another.

“For power readers, this is going to be like a dream come true,” predicted Scribd CEO Trip Adler.

“We think this could really change the book publishing’s business model and change people’s reading behavior.”

In the process, Scribd could help publishers cultivate an alternative to the electronic books stores run by Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

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