Thursday, December 26, 2013

Scribd: Getting Even Cloudier

I've noticed that more and more of my "media experiences" are streaming from the internet. With the help of Apple TV or the wifi connection in our Blu-Ray player, we rent movies from iTunes or Amazon Instant Video. Although I have local mp3 copies of most of my music, I do most of my music listening from two cloud sources, Amazon Cloud or Apple's iCloud. Sometimes for variety or laziness I will stream music from Pandora or iTunes Radio. I even stream pictures of my granddaughter from my daughter's iPhone (Apple's shared photostream).

Now I've started "streaming books." For several years, I've been doing most of my reading with Kindle e-books, buying several a month from Amazon. This is convenient but somewhat wasteful, since I read most books only once, and Kindle books cannot be shared or sold. Books are very small files compared to video or music, and they usually download in seconds. This also means that books could easily be "streamed," i.e., read directly over the web, once someone comes up with a business model to support this.

Now someone has, a company called Scribd ("the world's digital library") that's been around for years as a document sharing site, mainly for free documents (I have long had my Orbiter tutorial book Go Play In Space on Scribd for free PDF download). I haven't really looked at Scribd for a long time, but it's clear that they have been busy, and they have expanded into "non-free" books. Their latest thing is a subscription service which gives you online reading access to many commercial e-books for a flat rate of $8.99 a month. It's currently limited to only a few publishers, and mainly "back catalog" books, with relatively few current best sellers, similar in that respect to Netflix for movies.They currently offer over 100,000 titles, and they are working to add publishers, so I'm sure this number will increase over time.

They have a 30 day free trial, so I'm trying it. I'm pretty sure I will continue, because I have already found at least 10 books that I have previously considered buying on Kindle, as well as a dozen more that are new finds. My idea is that rather than buying 2-4 books a month on Kindle (for maybe $20+ a month), I'll probably read a couple of Scribd books and buy maybe 1-2 Kindle books if they aren't available on Scribd. It doesn't bother me that I won't "own" those books (I'm guessing I don't technically own my Kindle books either, only a license to download and read them whenever I want). I'm OK with the "paid borrowing" model, and Scribd allows you to download up to 10 books onto mobile devices for offline reading. The Scribd app for iOS works really well on iPhone and iPad, similar in most respects to the Kindle app. Since $8.99 is less than the typical cost for a single Kindle book, Scribd will be a good deal even if it only keeps me from buying one Kindle book a month. This makes me wonder how long it will be before Amazon or Google buys Scribd (maybe they will wait a couple of months and see how the subscription service does).

So I like this. Now if I could only eliminate my real book bottleneck - the fact that I can still only read one book at a time, and that there are still only 24 hours in a day. Severely limited mental bandwidth! As soon as they invent a multi-threaded brain, I'm ready to upgrade.

1 comment:

adan said...

I'm an author who's just now getting books on Scribd (via Smashwords), so I was very curious as to your experience so far. Glad to hear you anticipate this being a good deal for you, and hope you do a follow-up article later to say how it's working out. I think you'll definitely be finding a huge new amount of titles from those of us choosing to participate via Smashwords, so that should be fun (big variety, large quantity). Best wishes! :-)