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