NEW YORK — The publisher of Stephen King and Chelsea Handler will be selling books through Scribd, the online document-sharing service that the industry has criticized for enabling the downloading of pirated texts.
Scribd said digital versions of books by King, Handler and thousands of others published by Simon & Schuster can be purchased through Scribd's online store. In addition, excerpts from thousands of books will be available for viewing and linked to Simon & Schuster's website, where a paper edition can be purchased from the publisher or through a wide range of retailers.
Simon & Schuster is the first big New York publisher to makes its titles available on Scribd, which started its store last month. Publishers have complained of numerous pirated texts showing up on Scribd, but officials for both Scribd and Simon & Schuster say that Scribd has worked hard to improve its anti-piracy measures and that having the authorized editions in its database will make it easier to track illegal versions.
"It's a way for them, in terms of technology, to match our files against any that have been uploaded, to identify those uploaded files and then tell whether they're legitimate," said Ellie Hirschhorn, Simon & Schuster's chief digital officer. "If you're not in their program, the entire onus falls to the publisher, or to the author, or to the agent, for finding a pirated book. And now it's a shared responsibility."
"This is a major public endorsement by a major force in the publishing industry," said Trip Adler, Scribd's co-founder. "This is a great way for Simon & Schuster to protect its copyright and to sell to the online community."
A leading critic of Scribd, the Hachette Book Group, also may sell works through the online store.
"Because Scribd has been responsive to our concerns, we're open to selling our e-books on Scribd," said Sophie Cottrell, a vice president with Hachette, which in May singled out the company for having "an alarming number of unauthorized book titles on its site."
Last week's announcement came amid industry worries about piracy in the online era and debates on the extent and impact of piracy. Authors such as financial advisor Suze Orman and novelist Cory Doctorow have made a point of allowing their work to be available for free on the Internet, saying it raises awareness and can help sales. Last year, Random House Inc. offered free downloads of Charles Bock's acclaimed debut novel, "Beautiful Children."
But publishers say that they want control of what's made available and that they're especially concerned that the improving quality of e-book devices makes piracy easier and more appealing.
At the same time, piracy is a problem more in theory than in reality. Hirschhorn could not identify a specific book for which sales were harmed because of an unauthorized edition. Neither could a HarperCollins official, Carolyn Pittis, who said the publisher is thinking about offering books on Scribd's store.