June 15, 2009, 8:11 AM — Back in May I reported on the document sharing site Scribd opening an ebook store. At the time, O'Reilly Media was the only really widely known publisher to have bought-in to the idea, and the store was looking a bit anemic – no offense to indie publishers Lonely Planet (travel) and Berrett-Koehler (science) who also offered titles on Scribd. Selection at the store was a bit anemic.
As of Friday, that has changed to some extent, because on Friday Scribd added about 5,000 titles from Simon & Schuster, including mainstream titles from authors such as Stephen King and Dan Brown. These titles are being offered at 20% off the list price of the print editions.
You can read books on the Scribd site, or download them in a variety of formats (most commonly PDF) for reading on your PC or (potentially) an e-reader. And that word 'potentially' is one of Scribd's problems. There are so many different kinds of documents being sold it's hard to know for sure what you'll be able to do with any one. Most of the 'help' on Scribd is directed towards people adding content to the site, not to readers trying to determine if they can upload their ebook to their Sony Reader.
In May I said that the Scribd store didn't offer a compelling experience. Since then things have improved quite a bit, particularly if you go to the Simon & Schuster or the O'Reilly pages. But there is still work to be done. Search is a mess, leading to titles that have been removed for copyright reasons or pages telling you that you don't have authorization to access them. Most of these results (I assume) are from the non-store side of Scribd – they need a search dedicated to the store side of things. Nor is there a way that I can find to browse by author.
Scribd is definitely getting better, but it still has a ways to go before Amazon.com and its Kindle juggernaut have much to be worried about. And Amazon needs competition, so let's hope Scribd can manage to bring more publishers on board, and improve the reader experience of its store.