Why the new ‘Netflix for books’ is useless to me

tree readingMaybe you heard that Smashwords has partnered with Scribd to deliver a “Netflix for books” service. For $9 a month, you can read as much as you want.

That’s a good price — $9 easily covers one book or 40 — but to me, it’s a useless deal. Here’s why:

I just upgraded to a Kindle Paperwhite because I wanted to experience the comfort of reading on a brightly lit screen and the speed of near-instant flipping between pages, like I get on my iPad. But I also wanted to eliminate the glare of LCD and the distraction of apps, push-notifications, and the Internet.

As wonderful as Scribd sounds (it offers access to more than 40 million books — a giant library for digital reading), you can only use it on web-enabled devices like iOS and Android phones, tablets, and desktop computers. The Kindle Fire and Nook HD support Scribd, but the Paperwhite — or any other e-ink reader — does not.

That’s probably not Scribd’s fault. Amazon can control its content on its own e-readers, for examples, whereas other devices allow for third-party apps (including the Kindle Fire, which is only semi-closed and based on Android’s open platform). That could be a contributing reason.

Regardless, Scribd is still useless to me — for now, anyway. But I’m curious what effect its emergence could have on libraries across the country. As more people convert to e-readers and more of them seek digital books, how many will resort to a single, convenient source like Scribd, which, as long as you maintain an ongoing subscription, enforces no limits on the length of time you can read books (unlike library rentals)? I find that e-book loaning from local libraries can be both complicated and slow. I doubt Scribd would be nearly as grueling.

Does a “Netflix for books” interest you even if you have to read on LCD screens to get it? Do you think it could threaten local libraries?

New update to Readmill makes it easier to use and connect

Readmill has introduced a new update to their iPad app that makes it easier for readers and publishers to use.

Aside from letting people discuss their DRM-free books, the app now features a “Library” function, which creates a cloud-based index of your books and allows you to access them anytime, from anywhere. Secondly, “Send to Readmill” will transfer newly purchased books to the Library without hassle.

The DRM-free focus encourages people to buy from independent bookstores, rather than Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

“This is a way of bridging the gap between buying from these stores and being able to share books,” the company‚Äôs community manager, Matthew Bostock, told GigaOM.

This sounds like a great app, but unfortunately you have to own an iPad to take full advantage of it. However, Readmill is growing in platform and as a community. It currently offers a Bookmarklet that allows you to share highlights from Kindle books, and “ReadMore” and “ReadTracker” for iPhone and Android, respectively, allow you to add paper books to your Library. Users can also share their activity on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

I made an account for fun, if anyone wants to see what it looks like.

So here’s my question to you: Do you buy from indie bookshops? I’d like to expand what stores I buy my paperbacks and e-books from and support smaller business, rather than the big two. Tor is apparently launching a DRM-free e-book store this summer.