Scribd is a digital library, e-book and audiobook subscription service that includes one million titles. Scribd hosts 60 million documents on its open publishing platform.
Founded in 2007 by Trip Adler, Jared Friedman, and Tikhon Bernstam, and headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company is backed by Khosla Ventures, Y Combinator, Charles River Ventures, and Redpoint Ventures. Scribd’s e-book subscription service is available on Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, as well as the Kindle Fire, Nook, and personal computers. Subscribers can access unlimited books a month from 1,000 publishers, including Bloomsbury, Harlequin, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lonely Planet, Macmillan, Perseus Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Wiley, and Workman.
Scribd has 80 million users, and has been referred to as “the Netflix for books”.
Scribd began as a site to host and share documents. While at Harvard, Trip Adler was inspired to start Scribd after learning about the lengthy process required to publish academic papers. His father, a doctor at Stanford, was told it would take 18 months to have his medical research published. Adler wanted to create a simple way to publish and share written content online. He co-founded Scribd with Jared Friedman and attended the inaugural class of Y Combinator in the summer of 2006. There, Scribd received its initial $120,000 in seed funding and then launched in a San Francisco apartment in March 2007.
Scribd was called “the YouTube for documents”, allowing anyone to self-publish on the site using its document reader. The document reader turns PDFs, Word documents, and PowerPoints into Web documents that can be shared on any website that allows embeds. In its first year, Scribd grew rapidly to 23.5 million visitors as of November 2008. It also ranked as one of the top 20 social media sites according to Comscore.
In June 2009, Scribd launched the Scribd Store, enabling writers to easily upload and sell digital copies of their work online. That same month, the site partnered with Simon & Schuster to sell e-books on Scribd. The deal made digital editions of 5,000 titles available for purchase on Scribd, including books from bestselling authors like Stephen King, Dan Brown, and Mary Higgins Clark.
In October 2009, Scribd launched its branded reader for media companies including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, and MediaBistro. ProQuest began publishing dissertations and theses on Scribd in December 2009. In August 2010, many notable documents hosted on Scribd began to go viral, including the California Proposition 8 ruling, which received over 100,000 views in about 24 minutes, and HP‘s lawsuit against Mark Hurd‘s move to Oracle.
Subscription service (2013–present)
In October 2013, Scribd officially launched its unlimited subscription service for e-books. This gave users unlimited access to Scribd’s library of digital books for a flat monthly fee. The company also announced a partnership with HarperCollins which made the entire backlist of HarperCollins’ catalog available on the subscription service. According to Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins, this marked the first time that the publisher has released such a large portion of its catalog. In March 2014, Scribd announced a deal with Lonely Planet, offering the travel publisher’s entire library on its subscription service.
In May 2014, Scribd further increased its subscription offering with 10,000 titles from Simon & Schuster. These titles included works from authors such as: Ray Bradbury, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ernest Hemingway, Walter Isaacson, Stephen King, Chuck Klosterman, and David McCullough.
Scribd added audiobooks to its subscription service in November 2014 and comic books in February 2015.
In February 2016, it was announced that only titles from a rotating selection of the library would be available for unlimited reading, and subscribers would have credits to read three books and one audiobook per month from the entire library; unused credits roll over to the next month.
Scribd’s unlimited service launched on February 6, 2018, and includes access to an unlimited number of books and audiobooks, alongside unlimited access to news, magazines, documents, and sheet music, for a monthly subscription fee of US$8.99. However, under this unlimited service, Scribd will “occasionally […] limit the titles that [members are] able to access within a specific content library in a 30-day period.” The previous credit system for books and audiobooks were removed.
In October 2018, Scribd announced a joint subscription to Scribd and The New York Times for $12.99 per month.
In November 2014, Scribd added audiobooks to its subscription library. Wired noted that this was the first subscription service to offer unlimited access to audiobooks, and “it represents a much larger shift in the way digital content is consumed over the net.” In April 2015, the company expanded its audiobook catalog in a deal with Penguin Random House. This added 9,000 audiobooks to its platform including titles from authors like Lena Dunham, John Grisham, Gillian Flynn, and George R.R. Martin.
In February 2015, Scribd introduced comics to its subscription service. The company added 10,000 comics and graphic novels from publishers including Marvel, Archie, Boom! Studios, Dynamite, IDW, and Valiant. These included series such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Daredevil, X-O Manowar, and The Avengers. However, in December 2016, comics were eliminated from the service due to low demand.