Scribd is a subscription service that promises unlimited access to the world’s largest digital library of ebooks, audiobooks, and more. While I’ve been aware of Scribd for a few years now it wasn’t until Stephen King’s recent endorsement – he described it as “like Netflix for word wonks” – I decided to give it a try.
This Scribd review covers my experience with the service. How does Scribd work? Is Scribd as good as Audible? Is there a free trial for Scribd? I’ll address these questions and more to answer the all-important question: is Scribd worth it?
Quick Summary of this Scribd Review
Scribd offers (mostly) unlimited access to millions of audiobooks, ebooks, magazines, comics, and sheet music selections for a flat monthly fee. Basically, Scribd is for books what Spotify is for music and Netflix is for movies.
Overall, I think Scribd is the best-value audiobook subscription service currently available as the price seems very fair for everything you get. While not every title you want will be available, the selection has plenty of current bestsellers and all-time favorites and I’ve never had any trouble finding something to read or listen to. I recommend leveraging the Scribd free trial to see if the service is right for you.
The Scribd Story
In 2007, Trip Adler was inspired to start Scribd as a site to host and share documents 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. In this short 1-minute video Trip talks about his vision for Scribd “the change the way the world reads”:
Today, Scribd has over one million monthly subscribers in over 100 countries and its digital library has over a million premium titles to choose from, including audiobooks, eBooks, magazine articles, podcasts, sheet music selections, and research documents.
How Scribd Works
What do you get with a Scribd subscription?
Scribd gives you instant access to eBooks, audiobooks, articles, podcasts, sheet music, and documents — all in one simple digital subscription.
How much is a Scribd membership?
Scribd offers a free trial after which a monthly subscription is $11.99 USD.
How do I join Scribd?
Since I first wrote this review, Scribd reached out to me with an exclusive 60-day free trial offer for readers of this site (the regular offer is 30 days). Follow these instructions to access this offer:
2. Click “Redeem offer”.
3. Next you will need to choose from a number of different methods to create your account, including Google, Facebook, and email.
4. Lastly, you will be welcomed with an overview of the service (including a message that you’ll get an email before your Scribd trial ends) and then an opportunity to start selecting some titles to listen to. This is what I saw when I signed up:
Does Scribd have good audiobooks?
One of my preconceptions about Scribd was that it would not have a good selection of titles. However, as I start to browse the catalog, I quickly discover this was wrong. Scribd has an excellent library of books both in terms of quality and variety of titles available, including many bestselling and trending titles.
As I find titles that interest me, I click the “Save for later” button. Some of these include I’m Glad My Mom Died (a new release with a lot of buzz at the time of writing this review), The Fellowship of the Ring (the latest edition with narration from Andy Serkis), and Finding Me: A Memoir (Viola Davis’ memoir which is VERY highly rated online).
I also find no shortage of audiobooks I’ve listened to and loved, including The Dutch House (a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and narrated by Tom Hanks), Taste (a recent favorite from the actor and food-obsessive Stanley Tucci) and Never Split the Difference (one of the best self-improvement audiobooks I’ve listened to). I’ve created a Scribd reading (listening) list with these and other favorites here:
What are Scribd reading lists?
Reading lists are personalized recommendations and special collections created by both the Scribd editors and users. You can share lists you create with everyone on Scribd by making them publicly available, or set them as private to be enjoyed by only you.
I find these reading lists are a great way to get some ideas to answer the question every audiobook listener has asked themselves: “what should I listen to next?” Some interesting audiobook-focused lists I find include:
- 10 must-listen audiobooks for your next road trip
- 11 long audiobooks for the epic listener
- 14 audiobooks to make 2022 your best year yet
One small annoyance I experience is finding a title in a reading list I want to listen to – Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals – only to be told it’s “Unavailable in your country” (I’m in Canada). But really this is a minor issue as there is no shortage of interesting books and this is the only time I come across this message.
What are Scribd Originals?
Scribd Originals are original works available exclusively on Scribd.
As mentioned at the start of this review, Scribd came to attention because Stephen King described it as “like Netflix for word wonks” on Twitter. This was part of a tweet about Finn, a short story and Scribd Original:
I listen to Finn – it’s only 57 minutes – and I find it to be just “okay”. What I do really like, though, is that Scribd seems to have King’s entire catalog, including favorites such as It, 11/22/63, and On Writing.
What are Scribd Snapshots?
Scribd Snapshots highlight key insights from bestselling and award-winning nonfiction books. They are available in audio and written format. Scribd’s subscription is unique in that they’re able to provide Snapshots alongside full-length versions of the book.
You can read or listen to as many books as you can with your subscription, so in this sense Scribd is unlimited.
However, depending on your activity, you may run into restrictions (“throttling”). According to Scribd, “Occasionally, some titles in our library may be temporarily unavailable to you depending on your recent reading activity.”
My understanding of this policy is that there is a certain cost to Scribd each time someone reads or listens to a book, and this cost is greater for new releases and bestsellers. If you were to read or listen to a lot of these more expensive books it would become unprofitable for Scribd, therefore you may find access to specific titles is managed.
Personally, I haven’t run into this issue so far, and I suspect most subscribers won’t, but it is something to be aware of.
Do you keep Scribd books?
You only keep access to Scribd books while you are a member as you do not own the titles you read or listen to, just like you don’t own the shows and movies you watch on Netflix.
Is the Scribd app any good?
I found the Scribd app for my iPhone to have a nice clean design and be easy to use.
All content read or listened to on Scribd can be synced across multiple devices, and the app has features you’d expect for an audiobook player, including the ability to customize your narration speed, set a sleep timer, and download audiobooks to listen offline.
All-in-all I have found the Scribd app to be very good. It is highly rated in the App Store so other users seem to agree:
Scribd vs. Audible
How does Scribd compare to Audible?
Audible, an Amazon company, is known as the leading creator and provider of audiobooks and other spoken-word content. Audible has two main membership options:
- Audible Plus includes access to unlimited listening from the Audible Plus Catalog.
- Audible Premium Plus includes everything in Audible Plus, with the added bonus of 1 or 2 credits per month to be used to redeem any Premium title.
So how does Scribd vs. Audible compare? The key differences I find are:
Content: Audible has a much larger selection of audiobook and spoken-word content whereas Scribd has a larger overall digital library given it includes other content such as eBooks and magazines. The Audible Plus catalog provides a similar unlimited listening experience to Scribd but its catalog is much smaller.
Ownership: with Audible any audiobooks you purchase with a credit you own and keep forever but you do not own Audible Plus titles. Scribd is the same as Audible Plus in that you don’t own the audiobooks you listen to and need a subscription to access them.
Price: Audible Plus is $7.95 USD a month and Audible Premium Plus is $14.95 USD a month (1 credit). Scribd falls in the middle at $11.99 USD a month.
Is Scribd better than Audible?
I think Audible and Scribd are both excellent services so it really comes down to which one is better for you.
If you are very specific about what audiobook you want then Audible Premium Plus is probably the better choice as Scribd does not have every title.
If, however, you are happy to explore a large digital library for your next listen and are not concerned about owning your audiobooks, Scribd is a great Audible alternative. As a bonus, you also get access to other digital media including eBooks, magazines, podcasts, sheet music, and Snapshots. This is how Scribd compares itself to Audible on its site (along with Kindle Unlimited, another Amazon service that is focused on eBooks):
With Scribd, I’ve really enjoyed not having to worry about whether or not to use a credit on an audiobook I’m interested in. For example, Scribd has allowed me to satisfy my curiosity about some popular titles – e.g. I’m Glad My Mom Died – that quickly decided were not for me. And yes, I know that I can return an Audible book but this is not ideal, and Audible has been tightening up its return policy.
A quick note on Audible Plus: there are some good Audible Plus books but the catalog is really quite different to Scribd. I find there are many recognizable books and authors on Scribd and, as such, an abundance of titles I want to read and listen to. Audible Plus has some gems but it requires an open mind and a bit more work to find them, at least in my experience.
Again, Audible and Scribd are both excellent and offer a lot of value so, if your budget allows for it, you may even want to have both as many book lovers do!
Note: if you’re a current Audible customer you may like to pause your Audible subscription while you try Scribd.
Scribd Free Trial
Is there a free trial for Scribd?
Yes. The Scribd free trial is for new users and normally lets you read and listen free for 30 days.
Subsequent to my first publishing this review, Scribd reached out to me with an exclusive 60-day free trial offer for readers of this blog. Click here to access this Scribd 60-day trial.
How does the Scribd free trial work?
The Scribd free trial gives you full access to the catalog of eBooks, audiobooks, articles, podcasts, sheet music, and documents.
Can I cancel Scribd after the free trial?
Yes, you can cancel Scribd at any time.
Verdict: Is Scribd Worth It?
Scribd’s massive digital library offers a wide range of reading material in both print and audio formats at a price that seems very fair for everything you get.
I have been particularly impressed with the quality of titles available. I now have a long list of titles saved that I look forward to listening to, and I’ve enjoyed putting together my reading list with some of my all-time favorite books.
Is Scribd worth it? Yes! In fact, I think Scribd is currently the best value subscription service. I plan to keep my membership beyond the Scribd free trial, although I will use it in conjunction with other audiobook services as there are always specific titles I want to listen to.
To sum up, here are some reasons to choose Scribd:
- Access to a massive digital library including audiobooks, eBooks, magazine articles, podcasts, sheet music selections, and more.
- One simple digital subscription at a price that is less than many other services.
- Helpful book recommendations from Scribd reading lists and the algorithm.
- Highly rated apps for reading and listening.
If you’re still undecided about Scribd, my suggestion is just to give it a try! It’s free for 60 days with our exclusive offer and you can easily cancel at any time.
Do you still have questions about Scribd? Here I dig deeper into the service by addressing some frequently asked questions:
Have you tried Scribd? I’m curious to hear about your experiences with the service. Let me know in the comments section below!