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A Scribd Review: Is This Book Service Worth It?

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I first came across Scribd in 2008 when I was writing a last-minute 5000-word research essay and was frantically searching the web for citations and white papers. My journey with Scribd started pretty much from the time of Scribd’s inception when they began as the first open-source document sharing platform.

After using Scribd on and off again, it slipped off my radar for a while until it became available as an ebook platform where for a small subscription fee you could read an unlimited number of ebooks that were available through Scribd. These books were app exclusive and could not be sent to any other devices that did not use the app. Then Scribd changed the game when it brought on audiobooks to its collection with a price lower than most competing audiobook platforms out there. I browsed through the library to see what was available and I had to admit that it was a fantastic catalog. That’s when I was hooked. 

So I thought I would 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 the two it is a paid subscription, starting at $9.99. It offers a range of digital materials including books, audiobooks, articles, magazines, and even music. I’ve assessed my experience with Scribd on the basis of four different factors along with some of my recent favorite listens through the service.

Experience and Interface

The sign-up is pretty straightforward and quick. Even if you are activating a free trial you need to add payment information right away, but Scribd sends you an email before your trial expires, which I feel is a nice touch. 

Once you initially join, it asks you a series of questions about your preferred method of reading — ebook, audiobook, magazines — and asks you to save a couple of titles. It then uses this information to curate the initial selections that you will see on your first official screen as a Scribd user. 

Once in, the page is broken down into a few sections including but not limited to audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, and curated lists at the bottom. All these options are customizable with a filter on top where you can see only one category, multiple genres etc. It’s a fantastic option that keeps me from getting overwhelmed when I am trying to decide what to read next. 

Screenshot of Scribd homepage with text "Check out this amazing book"

Once you do choose a book in the format of your choice, it is a smooth customizable experience. The ebooks have various text and background options along with bookmarking and automatically saving your space in your apps across all devices. The audiobook feature offers multiple speeds and a similar synching across all apps option. 

Star Rating: ★★★★

Algorithm Recommendations and Categorization

As you navigate through the catalog you have the option to save the books that interest you, which in case you are me is pretty much every book. The more you save, the more comparable title recommendations you get. I know you have been scarred by algorithm recommendations where you wanted to read something like I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and got Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber instead, but these ones are much better.

Screenshot from Scribd homescreen

The categorization of the titles itself is fairly accurate when it comes to genre categories and what you might like if you enjoyed a particular title. Another one of the delightful features is the incredibly curated lists that are personalized by a team of Scribd editorial staff and include a lot of updated and diverse titles.

Star Rating: ★★★★

Diversity and Quality of Available Titles

The diversity of the titles available across ebooks audiobooks and other media is surprisingly excellent. They have some fantastic books from 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 World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney is already on there and some other gems like Sankofa and Razorblade Tears. 

It also offers a wide variety of titles across all genres. Their romance category is a wonder to behold including fantastic books like You Had Me at Hola and A Lot Like Adios, and even the fantastic witchy romcom The Ex Hex

Star Rating: ★★★★

Is Scribd truly unlimited?

The question you have all been waiting for is, is it truly unlimited? It certainly seems that way. However, there is a caveat. 

In my experience when I started to use Scribd a lot to read and listen, some of the titles that I had saved changed their status to “available soon.” This proved to be frustrating because one of the titles I was in the middle of at the time (The Flatshare by Beth O’ Leary) went into that category, leaving me stranded in the middle with no closure as to the fate of the characters in the story.

Upon further research in their FAQs, this is the explanation I have found:

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

  • Conditions regarding the deals we have with our publishing partners
  • General consumption level
  • Cost
  • Popularity

Based on this, their catalog can rotate either due to publisher preferences or if you have been speeding through a lot of titles, especially the really popular ones. This rubs me the wrong way a little because there seems a lack of transparency and a suddenness to it. I would rather have a solid limit, like Hoopla does, so I can pace myself and make my choices accordingly. Keeping this in mind, you have to be mindful of how many titles you save at once. 

Star Rating: ★★★

Is Scribd worth it?

I would say it is, especially with a 30–60 day free trial (it varies). It is a good amount of time for you to decide if you want to continue or not and for you to weigh out the pros and cons. 

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

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