Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Scribd - First Impressions

After much deliberation, I finally signed up for Scribd, an $8.99/month subscription service that bills itself as a “Netflix for books.”

Now, eight hours into my free month trial, I’m wondering, is it worth it?

So far, I’m not so sure…

The Great Things:
1) The interface is really nice, especially on the PC. I loved the simplicity of Standard View, which turns the selected book into a scroll-able column of text. The banner with the logo, search box, and Upload button disappears when you start scrolling down. I like this because it makes it easier to sneak some chapters during work without looking suspect.

A novel in Standard View

You are also able to switch to Book View, which felt a little pointless to me on the computer, but it allows for both scrolling and side-clicking to “turn the page.” It also allowed for pages to be displayed side-by-side. Again, this mostly seemed gimmicky to me, but I can see where it would have its merits. Perhaps this would be useful when reading a graphic novel, textbook, or children’s book?

A novel in Book View

2) I LOVED the seamless transitions from PC to mobile device. I was able to leave my computer, open the Scribd mobile app, and pick right back up at the place I left off (providing that I was connected to the internet). I did not realize that this was so important to me until I tried it. This feature is, for me, almost worth it alone.

3) So many Neil Gaiman books are available for subscribers!

The Good Things:
1) The service is, in my mind, inexpensive. If you are accustomed to buying and reading 1-2 paperbacks a month and don’t mind older titles, you could easily save money with Scribd.

2) Your first month is free and they offer many ways to earn free days/weeks with the service:

I’m not very keen on promoting things on Facebook and Twitter, especially with my personal accounts, but, liking Scribd on Facebook and installing the app were relatively painless. You can also earn free days through spreading referral links, inviting friends by email, and sharing a pre-written post on Twitter and Facebook. I earned 28 free days and came out of it with my dignity intact.

3) You could potentially discover some interesting new reads by perusing their “Collections.” I’m not sure who curates these Collections or how often they’re updated, but some of them were pretty interesting. I especially enjoyed the Short & Sweet Collection:

4) I also thought their choice in children’s literature (look for Kids & Teens in the Browse drop-down) was really awesome. Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events is available in full and there are lots of well-known titles from Beverly Cleary and Terry Pratchett.

The Not-So-Good-Things:
1) I mentioned in the “Good Things” section that the Collections displayed on the home page could lead to some new discoveries, but I also think they could lead to frustration. For example, before I really got the hang of the site, I clicked the “Classics” Collection thinking that it would take me to a page listing every book labeled in the system as a “classic.” However, I was only given 18 results. Do you mean to tell me that there are only 18 classics available!? This does not seem to be the case, but, I was panicked at first.

2) It’s kind of hard to find things in the Scribd system. I did not have much luck running across things I thought I’d like to read through browsing categories or Collections. I had to think of books I wanted (with a little help from my Goodreads profile) and then search for them. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but I’m a pretty impulsive reader and will forget what’s on my to-read list until it’s right in front of me. I really enjoy just stumbling across things and picking them up, and I did not have this experience with Scribd. The whole point of signing up for Scribd was to give me an outlet for my impulsion – to allow discovery - and I just felt stifled.

3) Most disappointingly, the selection is lacking. I’m not sure if I’m just having a hard time navigating the site and “browsing,” but there doesn’t seem to be that much available… Nine times out of ten, I’d search for a title and head to the book only to find that it’s not available for subscribers… I’d have to pay full price for the e-book. It’d be nice if, within the search drop-down, a logo or emblem would appear indicating what is or isn’t available for subscribers. I hate getting my hopes up. I’m sure that there will be more titles in the future, but, until then, I’m on the fence.
An example of the dreaded "Not Available for Subscribers" scenario.
$5.99 for Bleak House :(

So, come back in a month! I hope to have another article concerning my first month spent on Scribd. Is it worth it? We’ll find out, I guess…

 Note: I am a very “literary” reader. I lean toward literary fiction, classics, and the occasional fantasy novel. I am not very knowledgeable about non-fiction, anthologies, or genre pieces. There might be an amazing selection of biographies, how-tos, and thrillers available on Scribd that I am just too biased to comprehend.

See my post on eRheatah, an alternative to Scridb, here.

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