Scribd

One-minute review

Scribd began life as a document-sharing platform in 2007, but it’s grown from there to become an ebook and audiobook subscription service, like Kindle Unlimited and Kobo Plus. There’s quite a decent library of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines, podcasts, sheet music and, of course, the aforementioned documents too. Users can still upload these and you’ll find anything from court filings to academic papers, even recipes, on the platform.

That’s not Scrib’s headline feature though: in its current form, Scribd is aiming to be a real threat to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited reading platform and the potential is there. Both cost the same, but what each platform offers is a little different.

Firstly Scribd has a lot more variety in its library (as we mentioned earlier), but the number of ebook and audiobooks titles is much more limited as compared to Kindle Unlimited. In fact, Scribd has more audiobooks than ebooks, but it’s definitely a better selection than what you’d find on Kobo Plus for example (which is only available only in select markets at the time of writing). 

While Kindle Unlimited offers magazines to its US subscribers, other markets aren’t able to access those, and Scribd can fill the void. However, the number of magazines available on Scribd is limited and, if you’re truly a print magazine fan, you’ll find Readly to be a better option in terms of both titles offered and user experience. And while podcasts are a great addition to Scribd (something you won’t find on Kindle Unlimited), most of them are available for free on other platforms. 

What’s truly interesting about Scribd, though, is the availability of something called Snapshots. These are bite-sized excerpts from popular ebooks, perfect for anyone who’s short on time but big on keeping up with the latest titles. And then there’s sheet music – from classical to country, pop to Disney.

While you can read on Amazon’s platform using any Kindle device or app, Scribd is only available online on a browser or via iOS and Android apps. This may not be an issue for some, but if you already own a Kindle or Kobo ereader, moving to reading on a phone or tablet may not be the most fulfilling experience.

Scribd homepage on iPad

(Image credit: Scribd)

Scribd price and availability

  • Same price as Kindle Unlimited
  • Free access to other apps as perks
  • 30-day free trial

A monthly subscription to Scribd will cost you $9.99 / £7.99 / AU$14.99. That’s exactly how much Kindle Unlimited costs in the US and UK, but Scribd is a dollar more if you’re in Australia. 

Unlike Kindle Unlimited, however, your Scribd subscription gets you a few perks, like free access to six other platforms covering music and movie streaming (like Mubi and CONtv + Comics), plus education apps (like Peak Pro and CuriosityStream).

You can subscribe to Scribd from anywhere in the world, you’ll just have to pay the equivalent of the US pricing if your country doesn’t have an official Scribd site.

Scribd recommendations on desktop

(Image credit: Scribd)

Scribd library and content

  • Lots of audiobooks
  • Limited ebooks
  • Good collection of magazines and podcasts

Like we mentioned at the start of this review, there’s a lot on Scribd. As versatile as it looks on paper, the individual libraries of each type of content is limited. Let’s start with the obvious – ebooks. While there’s a lot here to keep you occupied for a very long time, you could be disappointed if you’re looking for something specific. A couple of missing examples we found were David Graeber’s The Dawn of Everything and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy.

However, the number of audiobooks on Scribd is much more impressive. Some titles that don’t have the ebook versions on Scribd can be found in audiobook format instead. For example, Neil Price’s Children of Ash and Elm and Mary Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome are only available as audiobooks. Another example of the deficit of ebook titles is Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series – all 10 are available as audiobooks but none as an ebook.

Scribd's browser interface for ebooks

(Image credit: Scribd)

Interestingly most of the ebook titles we’ve listed are available as user-uploaded documents in PDF format, although it's unclear whether these are legitimate uploads or not.

When it comes to magazines, you’re not going to get as extensive a collection as on Readly, but there are some very good options on Scribd, like Time, Marie Claire and National Geographic. There are some obvious big names missing too, like Reader’s Digest and Cosmopolitan. That said, the magazine stand does cover several genres including news and current affairs, tech, and lifestyle.

There’s a pretty decent collection of podcasts too, like Grounded with Louis Theroux, Day X, Revisionist History and Criminal. Practically every one we searched for, we found on Scribd, however, they’re all also available for free on Apple and Google Podcast services.

Scribd homepage on iPad

(Image credit: Scribd)

We’re not certain what sheet music is doing on Scribd, but if you’re a keen musician, you could strike gold and that alone might be worth the subscription cost for you. There’s a lot of sheet music, from Disney songs to Broadway, Mozart to Frank Sinatra, even Beyonce, Adele and Taylor Swift.

Buyer beware, there could be some dodgy uploads in the Documents section though. These are all user uploaded and, while some can be useful to students and researchers, some may not have been sourced legally. But you could find some seriously scrumptious recipes in this section.

Scribd's mobile interface showing audiobooks, saved titles and sheet music

(Image credit: Scribd)

User experience

  • Mobile apps are easy to use
  • Clunky browser interface
  • Formatting issues on some ebooks

Scribd can be used on a desktop browser, on a phone or a tablet, with apps available for both Apple and Android operating systems. If you use all three types of devices for Scribd, rest assured that your account gets synced in almost real time. So you could be using your phone to listen to an audiobook while you commute, and pick it up at the exact spot where you left off on your, say, your computer when you get home.

Signing up is easy and there’s a 30-day free trial for you to road test the service before you need to cough up the monthly fee.

Using the Scribd app on mobile or tablet is quite easy and intuitive, with browsing the catalogue made easy thanks to sections for different genres and categories. The different content types are neatly arranged on the top of the app and there’s even curated lists for anyone keen to find a new story to get lost in. 

When you find something you want to read or listen to, you just have to save it by tapping on the bookmark icon. If you can't decide what to read, there are editor-curated lists you can browse and the Scribd algorithm will constantly recommend titles based on your saves. You can even download items for offline reading or listening and, in theory, there’s no limit to how many you can download at a time (we didn't go past downloading five items at a time).

Sleep time for audiobooks on Scribd

(Image credit: Scribd)

Audiobook quality – based on the titles we listened to – is great, but if your device goes to sleep due to inactivity, the narration will stop unless you use the app’s sleep timer functionality (the crescent moon icon). Audiobooks require the screen to be on at all times for it to work nonstop.

Ebook quality, for the most part, is great but we did find some that had formatting issues – not the kind you’d expect from a page trying to automatically adjust to screen sizes. We found a number of them with just one word on a line or large chunks of empty space after a paragraph (with the next one starting on the subsequent page).

Note that the Scribd app itself doesn’t have a dark mode option, but if your device settings is selected for dark mode, then all content on Scribd will appear on a black background.

Scribd magazine interface on iPad

(Image credit: Scribd)

Reading magazines is a mixed-bag experience – none of the covers can be viewed full-screen and you can only read one article at a time, no scrolling through the whole issue here. That said, each article is nicely formatted, with any accompanying imagery placed very well to avoid weird line and page breaks, no matter what screen size you’re viewing it on.

The browser experience, however, isn’t as great as on mobile or tablet. The interface is easy to navigate and use, yes, but it lacks elegance and isn't as neatly arranged as other services, sporting a block-heavy design and wonky formatting throughout. That said, we reckon most users would prefer to read (or listen) on a handheld device, so the online interface shouldn’t really be too much of an issue.

The one drawback that could be a dealbreaker for some potential Scribd users is the lack of ereader support. If you already own a Kindle, then Amazon’s ebook/audiobook subscription service will be a lot more convenient for you. It’s a similar case with Kobo users – where Kobo Plus is available, that would seem like a better option (and it costs the same too). Scribd will probably have to go through licensing red tape to partner with some of the best ereader brands out there, but if that can be wrangled, then Scribd has the potential to give Kindle Unlimited a run for its money.

Should I subscribe to Scribd?

Scribd FAQ page

(Image credit: Scribd)

Subscribe if...

You want a diverse range of content

If you’re an avid reader and don’t already subscribe to an ebook/audiobook subscription service, then Scribd might be worth considering, particularly if you primarily do your digital reading on a phone or tablet. Considering you get access to a very diverse range of content types – ebooks, audiobooks, podcasts, magazines and more – could just make that subscription price worth it.

You love listening to audiobooks

If you don't already have an Audible subscription (which is cheaper in some markets but more expensive in others), Scribd could be a great alternative as it's got far more audiobooks on its platform than ebooks.

You love a few extra freebies

This is what makes Scribd so intriguing – the moment you sign up, you get free access to six other applications that include music and movie streaming, plus cognitive apps to keep your brain ticking along nicely.

Don't subscribe if...

You're a Kindle user

If you are planning on signing up for an ebook/audiobook service and already use a Kindle (either the ereaders themselves or the app), your money might be better spent on Kindle Unlimited. The library is far more extensive (for the same cost) and chances are high you'll get access to new releases on day one.

You love reading magazines

Having access to magazines and podcasts on the same platform is great, but Readly has a better magazine collection (if that is your primary area of interest) for a lower monthly fee, and the podcasts can be found on other platforms for free. So it’s up to you to decide if they add value to your Scribd subscription cost.

You prefer to do your reading on an ereader

Anyone who prefers to read on the glare-free, page-like screen of an ereader will be disappointed with a Scribd subscription as there's currently no ereader integration.

[First reviewed February 2022]

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