One of the things I love to do as I travel is to learn new skills or catch up on reading. In the last twelve months, for one of my other website projects, I’ve been reading a lot of books.
Having a background as a professional researcher, I’ve been sourcing books from multiple channels, including Amazon.com (primarily Kindle), inter-library loans, and a service I want to introduce you to today, Scribd.
If you’re familiar with the website, but have not seen it in recent years, you might remember it as a website where you could find lots of pirated books, uploaded by users in PDF form as documents.
Well, the company has shifted their business model.
Scribd is subscription-based ‘all-you-can eat’ buffet of digital books, audiobooks, magazine and newspaper articles, and other documents. You can read or listen to that content on your computer, or any mobile device.
What I like about Scribd
I think there are a lot of things to like about Scribd.
First, Scribd has a large catalog of books. While the choice is nowhere near as large as that of Amazon.com, it is still very good. I’m surprised at how many books (including those published by niche publishing houses) I’m finding that i can read on Scribd. I could not read many of these books for free as a part of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.
Second, included in the subscription price is access to an ‘unlimited’ amount of audiobooks. Again, the catalog of audiobooks is nothing like that of the industry leader Audible.com, but it is not unsubstantial. There are a lot of very popular audiobooks (including new releases) that you can listen to on Scribd, for free.
Then there’s the other free stuff.
There’s a huge catalogue of ‘documents’ uploaded by other users. They’re a mix of personal documents people want to share, and, yep, still those pirated books. You can download many of those documents in PDF, Microsoft PowerPoint or simple text file format.
There’s also articles from magazines and sheet music, neither of which I’ve really explored.
Another bonus for subscribers is get free access to a number of other services, like Mubi. Mubi is is a rolling catalog of movies and documentaries (a different movie each day, which you can view for up to 30 days). Again, most of these third party services are bonuses, and they might not interest the majority of subscribers.
Next, it’s affordable. The subscription for Scribd is $8.99/month, for which you can read an ‘unlimited’ number of books and listen to an ‘unlimited’ number of audiobooks. You get a discount for paying upfront for a year, and sometimes they have sales or promotions. I guess the best part of this is that it really only takes reading one or two books here for free (that you would otherwise have paid for), to make the subscription worthwhile.
Lastly, Scribd has an app that you can use to read books or listen to audiobooks on the go. You can even read content whilst offline. Otherwise the app has all of the usual features you’d expect from an app of this kind, including bookmarks, multi-speed playback of audiobooks, and so on. Updates are made to the app every two weeks.
What I don’t like about Scribd
Honestly, there isn’t much I don’t like about Scribd. The one thing that is a minor annoyance is that Scribd rotates the availability of some of the audiobooks. This means that some audiobooks will be unavailable to you at any given time.
What I did notice was that some of the books I’d expressed interest in (by clicking on them a few times, and adding them to my saved items list) became suddenly unavailable after a short time. Their next availability date was (conveniently) the day after my next monthly subscription payment was due. However, when I viewed that book through a private browser window (where I wasn’t logged in or being tracked) that title was available to other subscribers. To me, that’s not such a great practice. However, its also not a deal breaker. I expect that the majority of titles are available at any time. Certainly, when I search for audiobooks, it rarely says ‘Not available. Available on…’.
Also, as is the same with other similar services, certain titles are ‘geo-blocked’ and not available to users in certain countries. Such is the nature of international publishing. I think this has to do with the country you signed up from. However, if you’re traveling overseas, I do not know if you can download titles that are geo-blocked in the country you are currently in. Hence, you might need to use a VPN to access the service from a server located in your home country.
Overall, I’ve found the Scribd to be really useful. I’ve been able to read lots of books on education, training, and other areas of interest. There are also lots of popular children’s books that are on the service. (Added to that, a few are in the audiobook format, so I’ve been able to listen to the style the narrator uses to read the story.)
While it would be fantastic if Scribd had all of the books I wanted to read, I appreciate that’s never going to happen. Scribd has a large enough catalogue of books and audiobooks to keep me satisfied, and its possible to cancel or pause (for up to 3 months) the subscription at any time. That’s really useful if I know I’m going to have an extended period of time where I’m too busy to consume this kind of content. I don’t have to just keep paying the subscription fee while I’m not using the service much. I do pause the service occasionally, and just make a note of the titles I want to read (or bookmark them), and pick up again when I’ve got more time.
One of the major benefits to me is that I’ve been able to access a lot of books that I might otherwise have paid for. Its also given me the opportunity to browse a lot of books, just as I could if I were in a library. I use that technique to get an overview of the field I’m interested in and ideas for other books I might be interested in. Again, I wouldn’t have been able to do this at Amazon.com or most other bookseller websites.
If you’re interested in trying the Scribd service out, using my Scribd promo coupon code, you can get 2 months of access to the service for free! That’s more than enough time to decide if its going to work for your needs.