Scribd Is the Best eBook Subscription for Readers Who Want to Be Surprised

Scribd Is the Best eBook Subscription for Readers Who Want to Be Surprised
Image: Lauren Rouse/Gizmodo Australia

There are a lot of reasons a digital reading subscription makes sense. You don’t need physical shelf space, you save on the price of books, you can browse a virtual library at any time of the day – the list goes on. But just like the streaming market, the array of ebook subscription services is becoming crowded. So where does Scribd fit in?

Scribd is a reading subscription service that offers not only ebooks but audiobooks, podcasts, magazines and more. It launched in Australia mid-way through 2021 and I’ve been giving it a good test run over the past few months.

Here are some thoughts from my experience.

Scribd review

What’s good?

scribd review
Screenshots: Scribd

There are a lot of things to love about Scribd. Its strength really lies in its diversity of types of content.

While some subscription reading services only offer ebooks, Scribd offers a whole range of different things to read and listen to. Not only are there books but there are magazines, newspapers, podcasts, audiobooks, sheet music and documents – including things like screenplays and court filings.

There are even a few Scribd Originals with works from artists like Roxane Gay and Margaret Atwood.

You could spend hours searching through the content Scribd has on offer. The issues come when you’re looking for a specific piece of content, but we’ll get into that later.

Another benefit Scribd has at its advantage is its format. The app is clean and user friendly. Similar to a streaming service, it has rows with your saved titles, recommended content based on what you’ve been reading or searching and sections for top charts and editor’s picks.

On that note, Scribd’s algorithm is also very good. I saved a few titles I liked and it quickly began serving me up recommendations that were on point.

Another feature I particularly enjoyed was the curated reading lists which featured picks from notable authors with their favourite titles on Scribd.

Screenshot: Scribd

The editor’s picks are also a nice touch with recommendations from the Scribd staff. It made me feel like I was in a bookstore with the little handwritten reviews on books from the staff.

It’s these sorts of things that help show off the diversity of titles that Scribd has to offer and helped me find titles I never would’ve thought to read otherwise.

In terms of the reading experience on Scribd, there’s not much to complain about.

The interface is clean and easy to use. There are options to enhance or reduce your text size, a widget that tells you how many pages are left in a chapter, plus added options for making notes and bookmarks.

scribd review
Image: Lifehacker Australia/Scribd

The app is available on a wide range of devices including iOS, Android and Amazon Fire readers and it’s easy to sign in and pick up your reading on different devices. Gadgets like Kindles, Kobo and Nook GlowLight aren’t compatible.

Scribd certainly gives subscription services like Kindle Unlimited and Audible a run for their money, but it’s not without its issues.

What’s not so good?

Scribd review
Screenshot: Scribd

My main issue with Scribd, as I mentioned before, is its lack of specific content. If you’re coming to Scribd hoping to find the latest hottest releases, you might be disappointed.

Like any subscription service, Scribd relies on licencing rights to offer content under its subscription price. This means it’s not going to have every book you might find in a library or at a bookstore.

While I was able to find a suitable range of books I was interested in, searching for current hits like The Witcher or even Harry Potter only brought up adjacent content.

Sometimes Scribd was able to get away with this by offering the audiobook version of a major title but not the ebook version, or vice versa. I’ll admit it was frustrating to find a lack of mainstream reads on the platform, or at least, to not find them in the format I was looking for.

My reflection on this is that Scribd is probably best for those who are either avid readers and are constantly searching for new titles, or those who are looking to find something new and unexpected.

At $14.99 a month, Scribd isn’t the most expensive reading subscription out there, but you’ll want to make sure there’s a selection of content you’re interested in before signing up. Luckily, there’s a 30-day free trial for that.

Scribd review: The verdict

Image: Lifehacker Australia

Scribd is marketed as the ‘Netflix for ebooks’ and I have to say that description really hits the nail on the head.

Netflix is a streaming service that doesn’t rely on a legacy library of blockbuster content. It relies on a range of exclusive originals and an evolving algorithm that will serve you up content based on things you like.

Scribd is similar, it quickly learns what you like and will offer up similar titles in its range that you may not have found yet. It’s perfect for those who are open to new experiences and want to ride the wave the algorithm takes them on.

As someone who doesn’t have as much time to read as I’d like, I’m often only going to buy a book I know I’m interested in reading. This makes a Scribd subscription less effective for me because I’m not as interested in browsing.

Maybe you’re a different kind of reader and have ploughed through all the mainstream titles, leaving you keen to discover something new. Maybe you’re also likely to read multiple titles a month; justifying the $15 fee.

For you, Scribd is a prime choice. You’ll have limitless reading options and it’s far more efficient than forking over cash for each individual ebook or audiobook.

Everything I’ve seen so far on Scribd is encouraging, but it’s the content that is missing that’s frustrating. It’s still early days for the platform, however, and it’s continuing to build up its bulk of original and licensed content, which makes me optimistic about its potential in the future.