Tuesday, 16 September 2014

I came. I saw. I Scribd.

"Just sign up for the free trial," I told myself.

I have been curious about unlimited reading apps for a while.

I have a lot of books. I buy a lot of books.

More importantly: I have to find space for a lot of books.

Low cost, unlimited reading!

No more lifting boxes of books into the attic!

Doesn't it sound marvellous?

I had to find out for myself.

I'd originally intended to use the services offered by both Scribd and Oyster before choosing which to declare the winner of my unbridled affections. Unfortunately, Oyster have not yet made their app available to Android users in the UK.

Rejection is hard. 

If you haven't heard of Scribd before, let me fill you in:
Scribd is an app I can download onto my smartphone or mobile device and use to access as many book titles as I like for a tiny little price. 

When I first heard about this, I'm certain my brain pulsed a little with excitement. 

I read about Oyster before it was launched, and waited even longer for it to appear in the UK. Upon its arrival here, most of the platforms I would use were initially not supported. 

That's a lot of anticipation for a whole lot of meh

Fortunately, Scribd came to the rescue, and it has some good points:

  • Lowest (current) price point on the market at $8.99 per month
  • Biggest (current) selection of platforms upon which it is available to use
  • Over one hundred thousand titles to choose from, with over nine hundred publishers
  • Eclectic selection of titles available
  • Automatically syncs your titles across multi-platform usage
  • 'Save to device' feature allows you to save books for offline reading
  • Available to use in over one hundred countries

Unfortunately, all that glisters is not gold:

  • I am charged extra money by my bank for paying for a service that charges in dollars
  • Not all of the advertised platforms are available in the UK 
  • Included in the title and publisher count are documents you will likely never read
  • Not all titles are available in all countries
  • Some titles appear to be novels, but upon closer inspection are play transcripts
  • Some titles are only available in languages that are not English
  • I can't figure out whether authors are paid fairly by their publishers and Scribd for participating

You have to take the good with the bad.

Fortunately, it really isn't all that bad.

A plus point for Scribd is that the app works perfectly on my smartphone. I have never had any technical issues with it and I find it both appealing to look at and easy enough to use. I have managed to find some titles I had longed to read for a while; principally The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, which was inexcusably overpriced everywhere else I managed to find it. For me, this little gem was worth the monthly fee alone. I also managed to read Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters, a title that both Amazon and Waterstones in the UK had repeatedly failed to provide me with. 

Depending on your priorities, Scribd is a good app if you will use it.  If you read a lot of books every month and you are not particularly hard to please, I think you will find that the pluses outweigh the negatives. If you are a literary fiction aficionado, you might struggle to keep your palate amused. I was pleasantly surprised by the choice offered, but with the rate I consume books, I am cautious that my appetite will not continue to be satisfied in the longer term. 

I signed up for the free trial. I even stuck around for a paid month.

I'm not sure I will ever use it enough to justify it yet, but like all of these services, I appreciate that they will grow with time and are going to experience some teething problems. 

For now, I'll gladly remain an impassioned book sniffer. 

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