Around this time last year, the Gear Diary team tussled with the folks at MyPadMedia. They were less than thrilled with us blowing open their scam of $50 for “unlimited” eBooks that turned out to be free eBooks from Feedbooks and other sites. Unfortunately, either MyPadMedia or their cohorts have managed to spawn again, this time with “The Reading Site”, which sounds and looks suspiciously similar. Pay us up front, we promise you unlimited eBooks, and if you’re a website who wants to be an affiliate there’s a super fat paycheck for you. However, without even paying for the site I can tell you it’s a similar scam if not the same one. Read on for my handy tips on how to spot these lying liars who lie…
1) Show and tell.
Let’s say a new restaurant opens in your town. It’s a $19.99 all you can eat buffet, but there’s a catch. You don’t know for sure what’s on the buffet until you head inside. The windows are blacked out, and they have glowing reviews posted, but no menu, and you can’t see what they’re serving unless you pay the $19.99 up front. This could be as divine a meal as the reviews claim, or it could be pork ‘n’ beans from Wal-Mart. Would you go in? Chances are, you wouldn’t. But that’s what a site like MyPadMedia or The Reading Site want you to do.
So don’t. Look, a legitimate subscription site has nothing to hide, and everything to gain, from letting you browse the catalog for free. Audible.com lets you browse their entire selection so if you decide to join, it’s an informed decision. The Reading Site redirects every link to their “join now” site, where they ask for your $49.95 before you can see what they’re offering, though the testimonials and graphics imply a large selection of mainstream titles. However, you can’t be sure unless you pay first, much like the hypothetical all you can eat buffet won’t let you prove it’s fine dining and not reheated McDonald’s unless you show them the money. When you see this situation, DON’T PAY.
2) Follow the money.
As I have ranted here many times, most eBook sales are governed by a system called the agency model. Under that plan, the publisher sets the price, with 30% of the revenue from the sale of a book going to the seller, and the remaining 70% going to the publisher (and author, agent, etc). So let’s take the Da Vinci Code, which was featured on The Reading Site. That’s an agency title, and every time Amazon, B&N or Kobo sells that title they’re selling it at a pre-set price and for 30% profit. There’s no discounting, no coupons, no wiggle room.
So there’s no legal way The Reading Site or any other site can offer you a flat one-time fee and unlimited eBook downloads. They simply would have no way to provide the 70% required of the agency model, nor would they be able to get around the discounting issue. It’s legally impossible, so either they’re not really selling those books behind that $49.95 paywall, or the books they are selling are obtained illegally and will not be benefiting the author, publisher or anyone else in the food chain.
And even if the agency model weren’t a factor, stop and use your head. $49.95 one time, and all the books you want for free? Really? It’s an untenable business model because even buying books wholesale the downloads would quickly exceed the revenue. The entire model would have to assume that for every one person downloading to their heart’s content, several other people paid and never used the service. That’s an impossible way to run a business.
So agency pricing or non-agency pricing, there’s something very fishy about a one-time $49.95 fee. Anytime anyone offers you something amazing, but you can’t figure out how they’re benefiting, that should be a huge red flag to investigate further. And anytime a company you’ve never heard of is getting better terms for goods than the market leader, there’s a problem. If Amazon.com can’t negotiate their way out of the agency model, you can be damn sure that The Reading Site sure as hell didn’t.
3) Hot Potato
There’s some important fine print on The Reading Site [sub in “MyPadMedia” and this is the same disclaimer as that site, word for word]:
TheReadingSite.com is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Apple or the iPad team, Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com
TheReadingSite.com does not provide a direct database for downloading. TheReadingSite.comm provides members with the necessary links, tutorials & unlimited technical support for their downloading needs.
AKA, #2 is totally correct, we can’t sell you any books for a flat rate. So you’re paying The Reading Site to be an intermediary, because, again, they can’t sell you a damn thing. Anytime you see a disclaimer like this, put your wallet down and back away.
4) Desperate Bedfellows.
Not to compare The Reading Site to Amazon again, but let’s talk affiliate commissions. Amazon, a huge and popular site, offers affiliates 15%. The Reading Site offers affiliates 75%. Who gives away 3/4 of their profit in exchange for a web banner? Someone who really wants to get the message out, and is looking for helpers who aren’t going to ask questions. I work in sales, and I have for many years. I have never worked anywhere that offered me a 75% cut, and I’d be very, very wary of anyplace that wanted to offer me that for no work on my part. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and anyone who wants their site promoted badly enough that they will work for basically free while you get all the glory is super-duper fishy.
So, in a nutshell, here are your warning signs.
1) No access to the catalog unless you pay first.
2) A deal so cheap it’s not clear how anyone makes money.
3) Disclaimers that indicate you’re paying for information, not actual goods.
4) Affiliate programs that bribe sites into cooperating.
If you see a site that fits any of these, it’s too good to be true. Whether the label is MyPadMedia, TheReadingSite, or any similar scummy offer, DO NOT PURCHASE A THING FROM THEM. None of them are legitimate, and you’ll just be flushing your money away. Spread the word, make sure every eBook buyer is a savvy eBook buyer, and that no one falls for handing over their hard-earned cash to a site that’s just a giant scam. They’re not selling you unlimited access to bestsellers, at best they’re selling you access to a site that’s already free, and at worst they’re just taking your money. Don’t let them. End this cycle, and end these scummy sites for good!