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Updated: Scribd App Update Reveals Return of Unlimited(*) Reading

The embargo on this story is still in effect, but Scribd has let the cat out of the bag.

Scribd just released a new update for its Android app in Google Play, and I hope you are sitting down before reading the changelog:

Table of Contents


  • We’ve done away with credits, which means your subscription gives you access to an unlimited number of the best books, audiobooks, magazines, and more.
  • General bug fixes and stabilization updates.
  • We release new updates every two weeks, which means you’ll get access to the latest bug fixes and updated features as soon as possible.

I don’t know what I can say without violating the embargo, but yes, this is real, and so far as I know there is no catch.

Scribd is going back to the unlimited reading plan that they ended in February 2016. As you can read in the changelog, you will be able to read as many ebooks, magazines, and newspapers as you like.

Please check this post mid-day tomorrow for more details (I haven’t finished writing the post, honestly).

Edit: Here’s something else that leaked. I couldn’t get the Scribd rep to admit it, but there is a catch to the service. Here’s the fine print:

How many books can I read each month?

As many as you can! We strive to provide the most comprehensive catalog to all of our members. We can’t guarantee the availability of any specific title, but our members can always read an unlimited number of books and audiobooks each month. Occasionally, we have to limit the titles that you’re able to access within a specific content library in a 30-day period. This is similar to many unlimited data plans offered by cellular providers, in which data limits may be restricted once a user has consumed a high amount of data in a given month.

So basically this service is unlimited(*) – we’ll just have to wait for users to encounter the limit before we know what it is.

Thanks, Marjorie, for the tip!


So the news broke last night, and it’s hard to figure out what is worth adding.

For starters, Scribd hasn’t taken new capital, it still has the same owners, and no, the book publisher contracts were not renegotiated.

And no, the catalog hasn’t shrunk; I’m told Scribd now has more romance titles than what they had before they culled the popular titles in 2015 as a cost-cutting measure.

Scribd has over a million titles in its catalog. In comparison, KU has around 1.7 million, and there are around 4 to 5 million titles on the trade ebook market (this doesn’t include comic books or a lot of non-fiction).

The company is making the change because they have far fewer of the subscribers that used to read dozens if not hundreds of ebooks each month. This is essentially a shift in user patterns, and it is one that has made Scribd profitable.

Scribd boasts 700 thousand paying ebook subscribers, and it says it is turning a profit. But even so, its service is a lot smaller than Kindle Unlimited. Scribd has monthly revenues of around $6.3 million (less free months given away to draw in new users) while Amazon pays out over $20 million a month (between the funding pool and the all-star bonuses).

While we do not know the revenue generated by KU, it still pays out at least three times what Scribd pays publishers and authors – and KU also pays most of that money to authors, rather than to publishers.

But let’s be fair: Scribd has succeeded where B&N, Google, Kobo, Oyster, and a dozen other ebook startups have failed.

Scribd is turning a profit in the ebook market.

That makes Scribd the winner of the cage match that is the ebook industry.

That said, I wish we know more about how Scribd will throttle users. They have implied in the announcement blog post that they are going to do so:

Our new unlimited offering will be truly unlimited for the vast vast majority of subscribers, but occasionally some of these most voracious readers will see a temporary reduction of the catalog for a portion of the month.

What this sounds like is Scribd is planning to throttle the 2% to 3% of users who read too much while letting the profitable subscribers proceed unmolested.

Arguably, that is not a true unlimited but actually the kind of faux unlimited plan that cell phone companies offer (which is what Scribd said in the FAQ).

Will the throttling impact you, do you think?

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Tracy Cooper-Posey February 6, 2018 um 8:00 am

I will be interested to see if they single out the romance genre for harsher throttling than other genres. I removed all my books from Scribd in 2016 because of their repression policy.

Anne February 6, 2018 um 9:06 am

I wonder how much is too much. 6 audio books a month? 12? They do have some titles that Audible Romance Unlimited and my libraries don’t have,so it may be worth a try. I just wish it were clearer. I listen every day. Depending on length I can listen to 20 or more a month.

1 February 6, 2018 um 10:14 am

I wish someone would buy every CEO of every mid to large tech company a dictionary, and bookmark the page that defines "unlimited."

The misunderstanding of the word is rather impressive. Look no further than Microsoft and their unlimited OneDrive disaster.

Doris M Heilmann February 6, 2018 um 1:52 pm

Great News! For Authors too – as Scribd promotes your books a lot on the Internet!

Claudia February 6, 2018 um 10:32 pm

That’s excellent news! To be honest, I’ve been too busy lately to even use the old quota so I doubt I’ll get throttled, but it’s nice to have some wiggle room above and beyond the old limits for when I do have more time on my hands.

Thanks for the heads-up!

BurnedBeforeByScribd February 8, 2018 um 8:41 pm

I am 4 years deep into my current Scribd subscription. Have been through quite a few of their stress inducing changes. This one again flusters me, because I cannot seem to get a CS response about whether we will have access to the books we recently used credits to purchase, once we are in throttled status. If I get throttled, and get downgraded to a book selection that I’m uninterested in, and also cannot access the ones I paid for with credits, I will be furious. Having already paid for some of my book twice already, I will certainly be irritated to have pay again in some way under this new-new unlimited format.

Trying to stay calm. My books keep me sane.

Julie February 19, 2018 um 7:14 am

Can anyone tell me if the annual subscription is still available and how much it costs? Logging into Scribd from the UK I only see a one month free trial option, nothing else. I used to have an annual subscription and would like to start one again. I’ve contacted Scribd but no answer so far.

1 February 20, 2018 um 12:25 pm

Just treat yourself to a "gift."

Christina April 5, 2018 um 11:36 am

I cannot even open any books? Idk i emailed scribd and put in a ticket and cant get a hold of them. I go to open a book it will say needs update to open so i clicked on update but it said there is no current update sooo im confused :/

Lynn Hughes November 23, 2018 um 9:43 am

I have this exact same problem every month. I am not allowed to download very little right after the company takes my money off my card and then in less than a week BOOM my downloads are completely wiped out and I can’t open a book to even read it online. I thought when I signed up unlimited meant as many as you want but, now I see that it means how many the company wants you to have. I am switching to Kindle Unlimited.

Katie April 6, 2018 um 6:00 pm

I just started Scribd and I love it, but I think I’m experiencing the throttling you’re referring to. I keep finding that books I want to read (especially new, popular titles) will become available on April 16, which is one month since I began my membership. At first I thought that’s when Scribd would get those titles, but they ALL become available on the same day. My theory is that they have an unspoken category of premium books and a limit on those per month.

Katie September 14, 2018 um 1:38 pm

I seem to be getting capped after 2 “premium” audiobooks a month. :/ I’d rather them be upfront or charge me more for a true unlimited plan.

Gaurav Saxena February 23, 2019 um 8:42 am

After nearly 5 months of thinking I canceled my subscription to Scribd. Now i am using free method.

Dawn April 1, 2019 um 5:38 pm

Is it only unlimited if you don’t download the ebook and just listen to them through WiFi or is it unlimited either way.

I downloaded several ebooks for the weekend knowing was wasn’t going to be around WiFi, and within an hour all books I just downloaded were unavailable for the next 2 weeks. So frustrating and it just started happening to me the last 6 months.

Dawn April 1, 2019 um 5:40 pm

I agree. They are very vague with their description of "unlimited". I am having the same issue and I download a lot and all of a sudden they block them and are not available for weeks if I download too many at once. I camp a lot and this is the reason I got this a year ago.

Dawn April 1, 2019 um 5:51 pm

Scribd comment: Not unlimited at all. “We have some extremely voracious readers who will read a really large amount,” Adler noted, adding that this level of consumption can undercut the model’s sustainability.

For this group of “voracious” readers, Scribd will temporarily reduce library access for a portion of the month, meaning some titles will not be available to them until the end of the billing cycle. Adding limits to the consumption levels also makes the platform more attractive to publishers that want to get new and old titles in front of potential readers, Adler said.

“By putting things in subscriptions, what happens is our users can read voraciously; they can read things they wouldn’t read otherwise,” he added.

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