In this review, part of an occasional series, we look at Scribd, an app that aims to change the way the world reads.

What is it?

Scribd is a subscription-based app providing access to books, audiobooks, magazines, sheet music, and more. For a subscription of $8.99 a month, users can read or listen to anything from the catalogue. There is also a free 30-day trial, so you can explore or test the service and see what Scribd has to offer. 

Scribd began as a publishing house, to allow authors to publish written content to the web without any restrictions. However, it has since evolved into a subscription app with over one million users, and a library with thousands of books from more than 50 genres. It is available as an app for phones or tablets, or via your desktop. 

How does it work?

When you set up your user profile, you answer a questionnaire about your reading preferences. This allows Scribd to build you a customised library and offer suggestions for things you might like to read or listen to in the future. 

You can also create your own personalized lists for books or audiobooks within the saved titles section. This allows you to categorise what you read, making the app even more personalised. Effectively, you can use this like a playlist or movie queue, to help you find what you are looking for and keep track of favourites. 

Once inside a book, you can set your preferred typeface, size, and page colour. You can also search for keywords, add bookmarks and take notes on both books and audiobooks. The app allows you to go back and reread excerpts and reference them later. You can also share quotes on social media, and Scribd provides some coloured templates for this purpose. Audiobooks can be run at between 0.8 and three times normal speed, allowing you to ‘skim read’. However, the sound quality is not as good at higher speeds, and some words can become distorted. 

You can download e-books and audiobooks to your tablet or phone, meaning that you can then access them even without wifi.

What else do you need to know?

The unlimited library is not quite as unlimited as you might imagine. When a user saves a title, the app considers that book read. However, there is a maximum number of books that you can read or listen to in a month. This means that books and audiobooks can suddenly become unavailable for a couple of weeks, even if you are in the middle of reading them. Scribd’s FAQs suggest this is the policy of the publishing house, and is a direct result of the number of books users have read/listened to within the month. This is, therefore, not a bug that is going to be fixed in the near future.

Our verdict

A great option for access to a wide range of reading matter, but beware of the monthly limits on access.   

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