scribdIt’s been a pretty cool week for the folks at Scribd and those of us who love the service. They’ve added new content, and the latest updates to their app rock.

Let’s start with the new content. Honestly, I was shocked to get the advance press release that Scribd had landed some audiobook content from Penguin Random House. As the biggest of the Big Five, I thought they would be the last company to join a subscription service. (Now eyeing you, Hachette.) Granted, it’s only 9,000 audiobooks, but still, I think it’s a significant acquisition. Could we dream of some ebooks next? If PRH allowed even some backlist titles into Scribd, I might never need to purchase a book again. (Oops, people-who-want-me-to-buy-books, please ignore that last sentence.)

Seriously, though, I’ve felt for some time that Scribd was a fantastic deal, and more audio content just makes it better. Think about it. A basic Audible Gold subscription is $14.95 a month and gets you one book. Scribd is $8.99, and is all-you-can-listen, plus ebooks and comics? With the PRH additions, that’s over 45K audiobooks to choose from. Way more than I can listen to in a lifetime.

So what about those app updates? Both the iOS and Android apps were updated on Tuesday (or at least that’s when they appeared on my devices). The timing was ironic. Thanks to the urging of David Rothman, I’ve been experimenting with night mode in reading apps on my iPad. eInk is best for my eyes at bedtime, but night mode works pretty well. However, the stark white on black found in most apps is still hard on my eyes. Instapaper recently added a dark gray night mode, and I love it. I was thinking about emailing the folks at Scribd and requesting a dark gray option. Imagine my delight when the update went one better. A background gradient slider! Brilliant! My eyes are loving it.

Scribd gradient

They also added a few new fonts. “Modern” looks enough like Georgia to make me happy. I’m not crazy about the sans serif options, but then I’ve never liked sans serif fonts in ereading apps.

They also smoothed out the page turns in the iOS app! There had been a noticeable hitch in its get along when turning pages. I got used to it, but I’m glad it’s gone.

Fair warning. There is a pretty big bug in the iOS update. It wipes out all your downloaded books. They are aware of it and fixing it as soon as they can, but for now, be prepared. I only had six books downloaded, and it was easy enough to reload them, but it was a hassle. No issues with the Android version, however, and I would assume it’s also not a problem in the Kindle Fire version, but I can’t test that.

That glitch aside, it’s been a pretty good week for fans of Scribd. I would have been content with the background gradient. Everything else was just gravy. (Bacon gravy, maybe?)


  1. You’re right. With the exception of the upper few percentile for whom cost matters not, the price of audiobook and ebook subscriptions is a critical factor, particularly with the competition from websites and apps that offer audiobooks of the classics for free. I regularly grab deals from Audible, but I shake my head at the regular subscription and purchase prices. Too rich for my tastes.

    My hunch is that Scribd’s $8.99 is about as high as you can go for a mass market. There’s only so many people who want to listen to enough audiobooks to justify even that price. Success on a large scale will require household packages that offer something for an entire family: Netflix movies plus ebooks (especially genre) plus audiobooks, plus a special package of all that for children. People will pay more to have all their tastes indulged. The ones they use a lot will justify subscribing to the others.

    For a good nights sleep, you might want to try what I do. At about 8 pm, I quit looking at bright screens and read under a 1-watt/4-watt equivalent red LED light bulb I got from Home Depot. With a reflector, it’s just adequate for either paper books or my epaper Kindle. My body then gets a clear message that it’s bedtime.

    Then when I start to get sleepy, I turn to a classic audiobook on the Loyal Books app of my iPhone. It’s best audiobooks app right now because it’s the only one that does the sleep timer right. Rather than shut off completely when the time runs out, it merely pauses. Hit the pause/play button on my earphones and it starts another sleep timer cycle.

    Why is that good? Because the other sleep timers are built like sleep timers on radios playing music. We don’t care when that music shuts off as long as it is after we go to sleep. But listening to a book, we do care. Any narrative that takes place after we nod off is lost to us. The next day we need to look back manually to find where we went asleep and that’s a nuisance.

    With the Loyal Books app, I simply set it to five minutes. Each time is stops, I hit the button again. When I fall asleep, it’ll stop within five minutes, making going back easy. I even used it last night when I woke up about 2 am with my head filled with how to wrap up my latest book. Rather than try to shut that off with sheer willpower, I turned back to that audiobook. After about fifteen minutes, I was ready to sleep again.

    Just be careful what book you listen to. My latest is Shackleton’s South about his 1914-17 Antarctic expedition. Although written very matter of factly, it has proved too exciting to go to sleep by. Light comedy is better. If you want to save money, classics like P. J. Wodehouse are great. They are uncomplicated and often pleasantly silly, which is perfect for falling asleep.

    For a weekly treat in audiobooks read by a professional, use iTunes (or whatever) to subscribe to the Classic Tales podcast from B. J. Harrison.

    It’s a great way to discover marvelous authors from long ago.

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