Book Subscription Service: Scribd

scribdI am a bibliophile. I also have a large library that has taken almost all of my “disposable” income (I use quote marks because that income should have gone to other things but I have a bad habit…) but I have never had any real interest in book subscription services because I like to own my books. This is expensive, of course, but it’s what I do.

My husband has been complaining about my book buying habits lately – he claims I’m supposed to spend my money on things like clothes. My response to him is usually, “I prefer to be out of style and in budget” but his retort is that if I don’t buy more clothes I’m going to end up reading naked. LOL! Since my husband is pretty close to being correct, I decided to check out a book subscription service to see if I would like it.

There are three book subscription services that I know of currently: Scribd, Oyster and Kindle Unlimited. All of these services have at least one thing in common: they all function like a pay-for-play library which means that the user loses access to all books if the subscription ends. Not my favorite idea – I’d rather use that Public Library that I already fund via my tax dollars – but I decided to try one and see if I could like it.

After checking out all of the options I decided to go with Scribd for three reasons:
– Scribd is the cheapest at $8.99 per month (vs $9.99 for Oyster and Kindle Unlimited)
– Scribd has more traditional publishers available plus Smashwords authors
– The Dear Author blog has a deal with Scribd that gives DA readers a free three month trial (90 days)

I plan to track the books I read via Scribd and tally how much money I save (or not) based on the cost of a three month subscription ($26.97). I’m also going to track my library borrows during the same period and compare the two results. I already know that I’m going to have to find some serious – and I do mean serious – pros about using this paid subscription service because I’ve already found a con: You are required to do all reading on a back-lit device. I’m not a huge fan of reading on back-lit devices – they eventually give me eye strain and/or a headache. The back-lit device requirement is one place where Kindle Unlimited has the leg up: you can read Kindle Unlimited borrows on the Kindle Paperwhite. *jealous*

I like the look of the website and the [iPhone] app – it’s clean and uncluttered. While both the site and the app look very clean – I’m not a fan of the reading functionality. The site requires a two page reading layout – not my favorite – and trying to read the comic Cyanide and Happiness felt close to impossible. Both the app and the site shrank the pages in a way that made the drawings hard to read. The search function works ok – not great but ok. Most of the time the book I was searching for was the first option given but the rest of the results were…very screwy. Searching by author doesn’t always work too well.

My biggest issues – less the back-lit device requirement – is book availability and discoverability. I did a lot of searches – a lot – but I did not find very much. I looked up all of my thirteen upcoming book club books – I found ONE. I then looked up both my wishlist(s) and my to-buy lists (well over 100 books) and I managed to locate an additional seven (7) books. SEVEN! That’s not a good ratio for me. Based on my current finds – I would still have to either borrow 12 books from the library or buy them.

The discoverability issue is pretty major as well. I have found three books that were not on my radar but two of those books were by the same author. Every other book that I have slated to read so far were books I had on a wishlist/purchase list already. Again, not a great ratio for me. I’m hoping that the next three months yield better results.
 
 

Scribd Options at a Glance
Monthly/Yearly Cost: $8.99 a month/ $107.88 a year
Devices: iPhone/iPad, Android/Android tablets, Windows phone, Website, Kindle Fire and Nook HD (no eInk devices)
Publishers: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Kensington, Samhain, Smashwords, INscribe Digital, Bookbaby, Draft2Digital, Red Wheel/Weiser, Rosetta Books, Sourcebooks, Lonely Planet and Workman (it also looks like there are books by other publishers available for purchase)
Book Selection: Meh – mostly older books, I saw very (if any)

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