Service Review: Scribd

Scribd: Audiobooks & ebooks - Apps on Google Play

Scribd Subscription Service

**This is in no way affiliated with Scribd! It is simply my take on using the service!**

Scribd was the last of the major reading subscription services that I had yet to try. To date, I’ve tried: Audible, Kindle Unlimited, Kobo Audiobooks and Audiobooks.com and have various opinions on them all. I delayed getting Scribd because I wasn’t entirely sure I could get it in Canada (which you can as well as many other countries) and for a little while it wasn’t “unlimited” so I was saving my trial for a title I really wanted to read (but now the service is unlimited).

I was really curious to try Scribd because I loved the idea of unlimited eBooks and Audiobooks in a month. Most audiobook subscription services (like Audible) only allow 1 book a month (though some have packages or deals, etc for multiple titles in a month) so as someone who can finish an audiobook in 3-5 days, constant access to listen to audiobooks is a big draw. The other draw was that is has a lot of the bigger publishing house titles available for reading. It’s basically the Netflix of books!

So could Scribd become that supplement for titles my library lacks? I was more than willing to give my free 2 month trial a shot!

As I always do with these reviews, I’m going to go over the basics of the Scribd service and give my take on it independently (I’m not paid or endorsed by the company to provide this review). At the end, I will do a comparison to my other subscription services experiences, namely Audible and Kindle Unlimited as they are the most similar, just to give some context.

How Does it Work?

Unlike other book subscription services, Scribd does not have the option to purchase titles directly on their site. They only have the option for a monthly subscription. 

For $8.99 a month (USD), you purchase a month’s (30 days) worth of access to the eBooks, documents, sheet music, magazines and audiobooks of your choice.

It is an international service, however, not all books may be available for reading in your region due to copy and publishing rights. But you can browse their selection without logging in to get a feel for the titles they have.

My Experience:

–Signing-Up–

Because of COVID-19, I didn’t realize they were giving everyone a month free back in April. But a friend on Twitter who has the service gave me a referral link that got me 2 months for a free trial (and a free month for her!) so that’s how I signed up.

>>> I just want to highlight how great of an idea that referral program is! Instead of just one free book credit (like some other services), you give someone unlimited reading for 2 months and gain one month free for you!

One of the more notable options for signing up is that you can use PayPal which is super great.

–Audiobook Listening Experience–

Normally I listen to audiobooks on my old iPhone 4 but the iOS software is too old to support Scribd so I listened on my Galaxy 9 phone.

I really liked the app for the Android phones. It had all the features I want for an audiobook like changing the speed (I listen to all audibooks at 1.5X), a sleep timer, table of contents and easy to create & use bookmarks. I loved that I could download the audiobook over Wifi to my phone so I didn’t need to use data when listening to the book outside of my house. And I could run the app in the background while doing other things and could control it like if I was listening to music on the home and lock screens.

The app is sleek and easy to navigate. The only thing I wish it told you was the percent left in the entire book. If you log onto the Scribd desktop website, it tells you how long minute-wise you have left in the entire book. Otherwise, the timer at the bottom of your app tells you how many minutes are left in the current chapter. I’ve always kept track of my audiobook percent-read-in-a-day on Goodreads so I always notice when an app lacks the overall progress.

–eBook Reading Experience–

I had been eyeing getting a small tablet for travelling but getting this service sped up my decision a bit because I didn’t want to be reading books on my phone all the time. So I bought a Kindle Fire Tablet to read some of the eBooks I wanted from the site (and from Hoopla via my library).

Now, Scribd doesn’t have an official app for the Fire Tablet but they do have one you can download through their website for your tablet if you allow your device to download third party apps. That’s what I did and it worked great…until it needed me to update it every two weeks. I don’t know why but it would take multiple downloading attempts to get the update to take and there is no way to bypass the update to access your content. Frustrating. I had contacted support but their response was a few business days later and it was a slightly generic response to my issue. HOWEVER: they seemed to listen to my suggestion that you should be able to bypass the update because the next time the update was available, I could bypass the update! So, it seems like they have a very receptive support team and I will say that I found their FAQ section on their site to be very helpful for other issues or questions I had.

Overall: the reading experience itself is great. You can select different background colours, font colours, font type and size, etc. So it’s very customizable. Again, you can download titles to your devices so you aren’t using data all the time. And it does sync your reading progress across all your devices so long as they are connected to wifi.

–The (Audio)Book Selection–

Some of the titles I had planned to read using the service were no longer available months later when I finally signed up. Clearly, they rotate through what is available and for how long. But for the most part, there is a pretty great selection of titles. There’s a good mix of new releases and older titles; bigger and smaller publishing houses as well.

I did find a lot of the titles available to me on Scribd were also available on Hoopla which my library subscribes to. And sometimes, they only had the first title in a series available but not the others so that was disappointing (because I usually already had the first book and wanted the sequels).

One thing I really liked was that if an eBook has an audiobook option available on the site, it will tell you when you click on the title for more information. They have bestseller lists so you can see what the more popular titles are (and even sort them by audiobook or eBook). And I found the search option to be fairly accurate when looking up a specific title or author. Though a “recently added” list would be much appreciated.

I always worry that as a Canadian, I won’t have access to the same titles as a user in the USA but I had a few titles “not available in your country” so it wasn’t a huge issue.

–So is the Service Really “Unlimited”?–

It depends on your definition of “unlimited” to a certain degree.

Can you read as many books as you want in a month? Yes.

Does it mean that every book is available to you throughout the entire month? No.

As the Kindlepreneur explains:

Unlimited access doesn’t necessarily mean unlimited. Scribd practices throttling when it comes to their checkouts. High demand books are often restricted once the throttle cap is reached.

I ran into this at least twice during my first month and one more time in the last month of using the service. When I checked out Book #2 in the series, Book #3 was also available to download. But by the time I finished #2, Book #3 wasn’t available for me to download. Once the new month started it was once again available to download. I tried to avoid that in my second month of the trial–since I only had a month left–by downloading the whole series I wanted to finish. But by the time I got around to the third book it was unavailable even though I had downloaded it earlier in the month. I’m not sure how they decide the cut off but it was irksome to say the least.

How does it Compare to Other Book Subscription Services?

I’m going to break it down a little by some of the notable Audible, Kindle Unlimited, Audiobooks.com and Kobo Audiobook features:

  • Scribd: can listen & read books on your computer, phone or tablet
    • Audible: can listen to books on your computer, phone or tablet
    • Kindle Unlimited: on any device you can download the Kindle App to
    • Kobo Audiobooks: only lets you listen on your phone or tablet.
    • Audiobooks.com: lets you listen on your computer, phone or tablet
  • Scribd: lacks exclusives but has access to Sheet Music, Magazines and other streaming services like MUBI, AUDM and more
    • Audible: has exclusive audio titles only available through their company
    • Kindle Unlimited: any book in the program can only be found on Amazon
    • Kobo Audiobooks: lacks exclusives
    • Audibooks.com: also lacks exclusives
  • Scribd: no credit-for-titles system, pay for 30 days of use at a time
    • Audible: has multiple credits per month plan OR annual insta-credits plans
    • Kindle Unlimited: pay for one month of use at a time
    • Kobo Audiobooks: has multiple credits per month plan OR annual insta-credits plans
    • Audiobooks.com: has multiple credits per month OR single insta-credits
  • Scribd: no option to purchase titles to own
    • Audible: discounts for purchasing audio titles to own
    • Kindle Unlimited: once downloaded you can continue to read the title even if you are no longer subscribed to the service; otherwise, regular Kindle book purchase available
    • Kobo Audiobooks: can purchase audio titles to own
    • Audiobooks.com: can purchase audio titles to own

So, Am I Keeping It?

I ultimately decided not to keep the service after my two month trial but I wouldn’t say I am done with it entirely.

There were a lot of positives about the service. You can’t really go wrong if you like audiobooks because it you listen to even two audiobooks  in a month, you make your money back in the subscription fee. And if your library isn’t the best at having audiobooks or multiple copies of the bigger bestsellers, the access here is great. (I don’t play an instrument but I think the access to sheet music is a wicked bonus)! They do have a nice price breakdown when you try to cancel your subscription:

But I find when I use subscription services, I get caught up in making sure I’m getting my money’s worth out of it. That means books I get from my library or books I already own get pushed to the side. And while I don’t read a lot of ARCs anymore, if I have committed to one, I almost feel guilty reading it because I feel like I should be using my subscription service since I am paying money for it. (Why I don’t feel that same need to read books I’ve purchased I’ll never know).

For now, my library has most of these titles available in some format and I don’t have to wait super long to access them. But once I dwindle my library audiobook supply down, I think Scribd might be the alternative to supplementing my bookish fix because I really think you get more bang for your buck if you are an avid audiobook listener. In the future, I’ll probably do what I do with Kindle Unlimited where I resubscribe for a certain promotion or to binge binge titles I wouldn’t normally have access too (particularly audiobooks).

Do you use Scribd? Do you have a favourite Audiobook or Book Service? Any tips or feedback on the service?

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Comments 2

  • This is such a wonderfully thorough breakdown! I go back and forth with Scribd- it was GREAT when I was commuting and listening to a lot of audio books, but now that I’m home all the time because of COVID I don’t listen to audio books much, and so decided to stop my subscription for now. I also don’t like the way it’s not really “unlimited” (I’d run into the same issue you did when certain titles became unavailable later in the month). Overall I think it’s a great value if you listen to a lot of audiobooks and would probably resume if I started commuting again!
    Cristina @ Girl in the Pages recently posted…Month in Review: July 2020My Profile

    • I probably should have tried this out back when I was still commuting an hour for work each way but since I moved closer, I don’t listen to as many audiobooks. Which is why I was excited about the eBooks also being a part of the subscription!

      But that cap on books really deterred (and irked) me. I actually finished the trial a week earlier just because all the books I wanted to read were suddenly unavailable. Ugh!

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