Scribd: Sharing PDF’s of your publication

Today I’m revisiting Scribd. I first found this service after reading a note to iPhone owners written by Apple CEO, Steve Jobs.

The document was embedded in blog. So my first experience with a Scribd document was much like the document I’ve embedded (below).

Rundown from the Scribd About Page:
Quick Facts

* More than 50 million readers every month
* More than 50,000 documents uploaded every day
* More than 5 million iPaper embeds
* 90 different languages

The Pros:
You really can’t argue with that. Scribd is a fast and free way to share PDFs. If your publication is text centric, is in need of greater readership, and is a free publication a Scribd version is a great place to try out digital delivery.

The folks at Scribd have been busy developing more ways to search within the text of your document. With powerful keyword search, indexed by search engines, you can get your publication in front of new readership.

The Cons:

I’ve really never been a fan of embedded applications or widgets. Widgets and embeds use a second level of interface control that always feels disconnected to the surrounding content and context. From a design perspective I feel embeds are analogous to dashboard compasses. They are invaluably useful if your car doesn’t have a compass or GPS navigation. But they wreck the dashboard with sticky adhesive, scream I’m lost, and obstruct the view of the road.

The same cons can be said about integrating embeds on a corporate website: interface design doesn’t match the look and feel, shows users you don’t have the cash or skills to integrate new technology on your site, and any other important message displayed on the page usually gets second billing visually.

Scribd is clearly best used as a vehicle for promoting text heavy documents. For publishers, this limits bottom line potential. While Scribd will take an advertising centric PDF like the embed above, I’ve had a large number of error’d out upload sessions with PDFs chuck full of graphics. So in the example above we’ve created a low resolution PDF and the compression fragments are pretty apparent.

It would be fantastic if the designers of Scribd could add advanced navigation based on indices for use inside and outside of a Scribd document. Most of my publications include a pretty heavy index of advertisers. I would love to have document navigation based on my index, until then page flipping, scrolling, and thumbnail navigation certainly does not come close to the experience of physical paper.

Scribd isn’t really designed for document purchase or subscription services. The common usage for fee based publication is to use Scribd as preview the content of a for purchase document. You’ll commonly see first chapters and teasers, instead of full product implementation.

My Recommendation:
Try Scribd out for yourself to see how your publication looks and reads in digital form. Use this service as a sandbox. Pencil out the opportunities and weaknesses of digital delivery for your publication before investing in software or service agreement. This ten minute exercise will at least make you smarter.


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