Scribd Review | Tech Radar

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One minute review

Scribd started life as a document-sharing platform in 2007, but it grew from there to become an e-book and audiobook subscription service, like Kindle Unlimited and Kobo Plus. There’s a pretty decent library of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, podcasts, sheet music, and of course the aforementioned stuff too. Users can still download them, and you’ll find everything from court documents to academic papers, even recipes, on the platform.

That’s not Scrib’s main feature though: in its current form, Scribd aims to be a real threat to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited reading platform and the potential is there. Both cost the same, but what each platform offers is a bit different.

First of all, Scribd has a lot more variety in its library (as we mentioned before), but the number of ebook and audiobook titles is much more limited compared to Kindle Unlimited. In fact, Scribd has more audiobooks than ebooks, but it’s definitely a better selection than what you’ll find on Kobo Plus for example (which is only available in certain markets at the time of writing).

While Kindle Unlimited offers magazines to its US subscribers, other markets are unable to access them, and Scribd can fill the void. However, the number of magazines available on Scribd is limited, and if you’re really into print magazines, you’ll find Readly to be a better option in terms of titles offered and user experience. And while podcasts are a great addition to Scribd (something you won’t find on Kindle Unlimited), most of them are available for free on other platforms.

What’s really interesting about Scribd, however, is the availability of something called Snapshots. These are small snippets of popular ebooks, perfect for anyone short on time but loves to keep up with the latest titles. And then there are the scores – from classical to country, from pop to Disney.

While you can read on Amazon’s platform using any Kindle device or app, Scribd is only available online on a browser or through iOS and Android apps. That might not be a problem for some, but if you already have a Kindle or Kobo e-reader, switching to reading on a phone or tablet might not be the most satisfying experience.

Scribd homepage on iPad

(Image credit: Scribd)

Scribd Pricing and Availability

  • Same price as Kindle Unlimited
  • Free access to other apps as perks
  • 30 day free trial

A monthly subscription to Scribd will cost you $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$14.99. That’s exactly the price of Kindle Unlimited in the US and UK, but Scribd costs a dollar more if you’re in Australia.

Unlike Kindle Unlimited, however, your Scribd subscription gets you a few perks, like free access to six other platforms covering music and movie streaming (like Mubi and CONtv+Comics), plus educational apps (like Peak Pro and CuriosityStream).

You can subscribe to Scribd from anywhere in the world, just pay the equivalent of the US price if your country doesn’t have an official Scribd site.

Scribd desktop recommendations

(Image credit: Scribd)

Scribd Library and Content

  • Lots of audiobooks
  • Limited eBooks
  • Good collection of magazines and podcasts

As we mentioned at the start of this review, there’s a lot to Scribd. As versatile as it sounds on paper, individual libraries of each content type are limited. Let’s start with the obvious – ebooks. While there’s plenty here to keep you busy for a very long time, you might be disappointed if you’re looking for something specific. Some missing examples we found were those of David Graeber The dawn of everything and that of Brandon Sanderson Mistborn Trilogy.

However, the number of audiobooks on Scribd is much more impressive. Some titles that don’t have ebook versions on Scribd can be found in audiobook format instead. For example, Neil Price Ash and Elm Children and Mary Beard SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome are only available as audiobooks. Another example of the e-book title deficit is that of Steven Erikson Malazan Book of the Dead series – all 10 are available as audio books but none as an e-book.

Scribd's browser interface for ebooks

(Image credit: Scribd)

Interestingly, most of the eBook titles we’ve listed are available as user-downloaded documents in PDF format, although it’s unclear if these are legitimate downloads or not.

As for magazines, you won’t get as extensive a collection as on Readly, but there are some great options on Scribd, like Time, Marie Claire, and National Geographic. It’s also missing some obvious big names, like Reader’s Digest and Cosmopolitan. That said, the magazine stand spans multiple genres, including news and current affairs, technology, and lifestyle.

There’s also a pretty decent collection of podcasts, like Grounded with Louis Theroux, Day X, Revisionist History, and Criminal. Virtually all of the ones we searched for we found on Scribd, however, they are all also available for free on Apple and Google Podcast services.

Scribd homepage on iPad

(Image credit: Scribd)

We don’t know exactly what sheet music on Scribd does, but if you’re an avid musician, you might strike gold and that alone might be worth the subscription cost to you. There are plenty of scores, from songs from Disney to Broadway, from Mozart to Frank Sinatra, to Beyonce, Adele and Taylor Swift.

Buyer beware, however, there could be questionable uploads in the Documents section. These are all uploaded by users, and while some may be useful to students and researchers, some may not have been obtained legally. But you might find some really delicious recipes in this section.

Scribd's mobile interface displaying audiobooks, recorded titles, and sheet music

(Image credit: Scribd)

User experience

  • Mobile apps are easy to use
  • Clunky browser interface
  • Formatting issues on some ebooks

Scribd can be used on a desktop browser, phone or tablet, with apps available for Apple and Android operating systems. If you use all three types of devices for Scribd, rest assured that your account is synced near real-time. So you could use your phone to listen to an audiobook while you’re on the go and pick it up right where you left off on your, say, computer when you get home.

Signing up is easy, and you get a 30-day free trial to test out the service before you have to pay the monthly fee.

Using the Scribd app on mobile or tablet is quite simple and intuitive, with browsing the catalog made easy with sections for different genres and categories. The different types of content are neatly organized at the top of the app, and there are even curated lists for anyone who wants to find a new story to get lost in.

When you find something you want to read or listen to, just save it by tapping the bookmark icon. If you can’t decide what to read, there are publisher curated lists you can browse and the Scribd algorithm will constantly recommend titles based on your saves. You can even download items to read or listen to offline, and in theory there’s no limit to how many you can download at a time (we didn’t go over downloading five items at a time). times).

Sleep time for audiobooks on Scribd

(Image credit: Scribd)

The quality of the audiobooks – based on the titles we’ve listened to – is excellent, but if your device goes to sleep due to inactivity, the narration will stop unless you use the timer feature of put the application to sleep (the crescent moon icon). Audiobooks require the screen to be on at all times for non-stop operation.

The quality of the eBooks, for the most part, is excellent, but we found a few that had formatting issues – not the kind you’d expect from a page trying to automatically fit the size of the screen. We found quite a few with a single word on a line or large chunks of blank space after a paragraph (the next starting on the next page).

Note that the Scribd app itself does not have a dark mode option, but if your device settings are selected for dark mode, then all Scribd content will appear on a black background.

Scribd magazine interface on iPad

(Image credit: Scribd)

Reading magazines is a mixed experience – none of the covers can be viewed full screen, and you can only read one article at a time, without scrolling through the entire issue here. That said, each article is well formatted, with all the accompanying images very well placed to avoid weird line and page breaks, no matter what screen size you’re viewing it on.

The browser experience, however, is not as good as on mobile or tablet. The interface is easy to navigate and use, yes, but it lacks elegance and isn’t as well organized as other services, sporting a heavy design and wonky formatting throughout. That said, we reckon most users would prefer to read (or listen) on a portable device, so the online interface shouldn’t really be a problem.

The one downside that might be a deal breaker for some potential Scribd users is the lack of eReader support. If you already own a Kindle, Amazon’s ebook/audiobook subscription service will be much more convenient for you. It’s a similar case with Kobo users – where Kobo Plus is available, it would seem like a better option (and it costs the same too). Scribd will likely have to go through some red tape to partner with some of the best e-reader brands, but if that can be worked out, then Scribd has the potential to give Kindle Unlimited a run for its money.

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(Image credit: Scribd)

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[First reviewed February 2022]

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