A review from Scribd: Is this book service worth it?

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I first discovered Scribd in 2008 when I was writing a last minute 5,000 word research essay and frantically searching the web for quotes and white papers. My journey with Scribd started pretty much since Scribd was founded when they started out as the first open source document sharing platform.

After using Scribd a few times it slipped off my radar for a while until it became available as an eBook platform where, for a small subscription, you could read an unlimited number of eBooks available through Scribd. These books were exclusive to the app and could not be sent to any other device not using the app. Then, Scribd changed the game by adding audiobooks to their collection at a lower price than most competing audiobook platforms. I scanned the library to see what was available and had to admit it was a fantastic catalog. That’s when I got hooked.

So I thought I’d break down my first impressions and experience with this Scribd review for anyone looking to dive into a subscription.

What is Scribd?

Scribd claims to be a digital library that serves as a read-as-you-go service, similar to Hoopla and Libby. However, unlike both, it’s a paid subscription, starting at $ 9.99. It offers a range of digital media including books, audiobooks, articles, magazines and even music. I rated my experience with Scribd based on four different factors as well as some of my last favorite listenings through the service.

Experience and interface

Signing up is pretty quick and easy. Even if you activate a free trial, you need to add payment information immediately, but Scribd sends you an email before your trial expires, which I think is a good idea.

Once you’ve signed up for the first time, it asks you a series of questions about your preferred reading method – ebook, audiobook, magazines – and asks you to record a few titles. It then uses that information to organize the initial selections you’ll see on your first official screen as a Scribd user.

Once inside, the page is split into a few sections including but not limited to audiobooks, e-books, magazines, and lists organized at the bottom. All of these options are customizable with a filter at the top where you can only see one category, multiple genres, etc. It’s a fantastic option that keeps me from getting overwhelmed when trying to decide what to read next.

Once you’ve picked a book in your preferred format, it’s a smooth, customizable experience. Ebooks have various text and background options as well as creating bookmarks and automatically saving your space in your apps on all devices. The audiobook feature offers multiple speeds and a similar sync option across all apps.

Rating: ★★★★

Algorithm recommendations and categorization

When browsing the catalog, you have the option to save the books that interest you, which in case you are me is pretty much any book. The more you save, the more recommendations you get from comparable stocks. I know you’ve been tagged with algorithm recommendations where you wanted to read something like I capture the castle by Dodie Smith and got the one from Angela Carter The bloody room instead, but these are much better.

Screenshot of Scribd's home screen

The title categorization itself is pretty precise when it comes to genre categories and what you might like if you like a particular title. Another delightful feature is the incredibly curated lists which are personalized by a Scribd writing team and include many up-to-date and diverse headlines.

Rating: ★★★★

Diversity and quality of titles available

The variety of titles available in electronic audiobooks and other media is surprisingly excellent. They have fantastic books by black authors, Asian American authors, and Native American authors, to name a few.

The titles available offer an incredible range from classics, modern classics to recent releases. Beautiful people, where are you by Sally Rooney is already here and some other gems like Sankofa and Razor blade tears.

It also offers a wide variety of titles in all genres. Their romance category is a marvel to see, including fantastic books like You had me in Hola and A bit like Adios, and even the fantastic romcom witch The ex-spell.

Rating: ★★★★

Is Scribd really unlimited?

The question you’ve all been waiting for is: is it really unlimited? It certainly looks that way. However, there is a caveat.

In my experience, when I started to use Scribd a lot for reading and listening, some of the songs I had recorded changed their status to “coming soon”. It turned out to be frustrating because one of the titles I was in the middle of at the time (Colocation by Beth O ‘Leary) fell into that category, leaving me stuck in the middle without any closure as to the fate of the characters in the story.

After further researching their FAQs, here is the explanation I found:

Our catalogs usually start to rotate as you read, and the availability of books and audiobooks in our library is based on a variety of factors, some of which include:

  • Conditions concerning the agreements we have with our publishing partners
  • General consumption level
  • Cost
  • Popularity

Based on this, their catalog may turn either because of publisher preferences, or if you have browsed through many titles, especially the most popular ones. It rubs me a little backwards because it seems to me that it lacks transparency and suddenness. I would prefer to have a solid limit, like Hoopla does, to be able to pace myself and make my choices accordingly. With this in mind, you should be aware of how many tracks you are recording at a time.

Rating: ★★★

Is Scribd worth it?

I would say yes, especially with a 30-60 day free trial (varies). It’s a good time for you to decide whether you want to continue or not and for you to weigh the pros and cons.

If you’re looking for free options, check out our favorite free reading apps here.

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