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Content Availability is Going to be the Achilles Heel of Scribd’s New eBook Service

scribd SF sectionScridb’s newly launched ebook subscription service is great. It builds on Scribd’s well-designed website (which is better than a lot of ebookstores) and widely used apps to offer a service that instantly better than that of its competitors. Or at least it would be better if not for the fact that Scribd keeps showing me ebooks that it will not let me read.

Update: Scribd says they fixed the problem, and that it was due to not being able to identify my location. I will leave this post up in case others see similar issues.

I have been trying the new service for just over an hour now, and I decided to stop using it for a moment so I could pass along a warning.

The Scribd website will lead you to think that there is a huge selection of ebooks to read, but what they won’t tell you until after you subscribe is that some unknown amount of the ebooks aren’t available in your market. They might be available in other markets (this is a global service), but that’s not clear.

Three of the first 10 ebooks I added (or tried to add) to my library aren’t actually available in the US, and I did not learn this until after I added them to my library (the last 4 titles were ones I checked but did not try to add).  While Scribd will show you a well-organized and cleanly displayed SF section like the screenshot, they won’t tell you which of the titles shown are not available:

scribd SF section

There’s no way to filter out the unavailable titles nor is there any indication that I cannot access them. Instead I had to find this out the hard way by clicking on a title and trying to read it:

scribd ebook inaccessible

I suppose some are going to say that this is a relatively minor issue, but I’m not so sure.

I have just checked, and Scribd will let potential subscribers browse the catalog and see if we can find enough titles to be worth the cost of the subscription. That is an option that Scribd’s competitor Oyster doesn’t offer, so I can appreciate the opportunity it presents.

Unfortunately Scribd is showing the same inaccessible ebooks to the potential subscribers. They are pitching their service based on content they cannot deliver.

And that is a problem.

I’m not trying to bash Scribd here, but I do want to warn everyone that you need to take what you see on the Scribd website with a grain of salt. Luckily for us Scribd offers a free trial for the subscription so there is plenty of time to discover the shortcomings and decide whether to keep the service.

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Jared October 1, 2013 um 1:49 pm

Hi Nathan –

I work for Scribd. We noticed this article and believe there is a technical issue, as this is not supposed to behave this way.

Can you send us your Scribd username or the email you signed up with so we can investigate? Thanks!


Ian Richards October 21, 2013 um 9:10 am

I am a Canadian potential customer and I can’t find anything that is available. I would love to subscribe to this service

Username : stubs
Password : lenawo96sata

Please let me know by email

Bob A October 1, 2013 um 2:16 pm

Kudos to Scribd and Jared for paying attention to critique and responding in a positive way. I’m impressed.

Name October 1, 2013 um 4:37 pm

Scribd, in my perception, is one of those crap sites that people keep linking to. I’m pretty pissed whenever I see a link to some paper or slides going to Scribd. The site is dysfunctional without JavaScript and doesn’t let people download files. And no, creating an account there in order to download a file was not even a sane option when it used to be free. Recently, they seem to have morphed the whole thing into a paywall.

So now they’re doing something with ebooks? Fine, but no, thanks; I don’t even want to know what kind of new service they’ve come up with. When I’m reading here that they pretend to have a bigger portfolio than they actually have only to reveal that truth after they’ve already tricked people into registering with their site, I find it hard to believe that there’s an accident. I’m not impressed. No offense to either of Jared or Bob A, but I’m uncertain whether or not I’m looking at placed marketing beneath an even just slightly critical article.

Sorry for the harsh words, but in the case of Scribd they’re very well deserved in my opinion. I can only think of Scribd in one line with services like Soundcloud or software like Real Media Player or Flash. In each case, the world would be a better place if only they had just died in their infancy.

Becca October 2, 2013 um 8:19 am

I’m uninterested until they make it possible to read the books on my eink devices. I may be in the minority but I really dislike reading long-form fiction on my tablet.

Amy October 18, 2013 um 1:13 pm

I joined Scrb awhile ago and was under impressed (Means the beyond the opposite of impressed). It basically sucked. I went on recently and joined for $8. So far I’ve read Red by Sammy Hagar, Slash, and a couple of other books I’d never think to read. I love it! I feel like it’s opening up my horizons. I read it on my laptop or phone. I do wish I could read it on an ereader, but oh well. It’s still worth it. And no I don’t work for Scrbd.

Assorted Updates About eBooks | What's Happening… November 21, 2013 um 10:06 am

[…] and Oyster, you’ll have to consider selection, design, and platform.” Nate Hoffelder notes a potential problem with content availability…. TeleRead, Oct. 1; GigaOM, Oct. 1; The Digital […]

Marina December 15, 2014 um 5:13 am

Why do I have to downloa the app to read books on my phone. I dont have enough space for the iOS upgrade needed to use the app. So now i paid $8 to NOT be able to read my books on my web browser on my phone. THX

[email protected] October 9, 2015 um 3:05 pm

I just renewed my scribd and it is disappointing to know that although scribd shows many ebooks that I am interested in reading, the last 5 days I have clicked on links only to find out "this title is not available in your country". That does not seem fair. There should be an option to see which titles are available in my country (Canada) rather than me wasting time scrolling and then anticipating reading the book only to click and find this message. I paid for an annual service and if this is what scribd is all about, I wont be renewing. I understand country laws, but where does it allow scribd to make you feel that all these books are available, playing with my emotions. Sorry, I tend to get emotional with the desire to read and so far its turned out a huge disappointment.

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