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Scribd Australia review: Unrealised potential
Meet Kindle Unlimited’s underdog competitor.
Scribd Australia price
It’s been around in the US for about seven years now, but Scribd only recently introduced its unlimited reading model to Australia. Launching in March 2021, the “Netflix for books” (as it’s been dubbed) invested heavily in the local market, with titles from Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Fremantle Press.
Much like Kindle Unlimited, Scribd offers users unlimited access to a catalogue of ebooks and audiobooks, for the same monthly price of $13.99 and a 30-day free trial for new subscribers. But unlike Kindle Unlimited, Scribd has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. So, with that in mind, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
Scribd Australia content
Scribd offers quite an eclectic mix of content. In addition to books and audiobooks, it also offers magazines, podcasts, sheet music, and the weirdly vague category of “documents”. With so much to break down, we’re going to go bit by bit.
As the bread and butter of any self-respecting ebook subscription service, you’d expect Scribd’s book catalogue to be a pretty extensive one. In reality, it’s a little disappointing.
There are a few well-known authors such as Ray Bradbury, Jodi Picoult and Khaled Hosseini, along with a handful of gems, like The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, The Alice Network by Kate Quinn, and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. There’s even a selection of Scribd Originals, which includes “Two Scorched Men” (a short story by The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood) and Writing into the Wound by Roxane Gay. But aside from that, the library is far thinner than I hoped. We don’t know exactly how many ebooks there are, but it’s safe to say the number is well below Kindle Unlimited’s one million titles (even if 50% of those titles are self-published erotica).
Though the ebook section leaves a lot to be desired, the audiobook library is actually pretty decent - more extensive, in fact, than the ebook selection.
In the well-stocked classics corner, you’ll find Austen, Orwell, Dostoyevsky, and Tolkien’s entire bibliography. There’s also a large selection of more recent hits like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab.
While Kindle Unlimited definitely beats Scribd in the ebook game, Scribd’s audiobook range is far superior.
Another thing Scribd has over Kindle Unlimited (at least, in Australia) is magazines. While Kindle Unlimited subscribers in the US and other markets can access tons of free magazines, Australians have no such luck. For Scribd users, however, your subscription comes with unlimited access to the latest editions of Time Magazine, Newsweek, HELLO, Total Film, Money Magazine, Women’s Fitness and more.
This is a bit of a weird one, but Scribd also has a selection of podcasts. Weird, because every podcast I looked into was available on another platform (like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify) for free. I don’t really see the point of including them since they’re not adding any extra value to the subscription.
Another weird one, but as someone who recently took piano back up (thank you, lockdown), Scribd’s sheet music collection has been a welcome perk. There are entire songbooks for albums by the likes of Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Coldplay, film and Broadway soundtracks like Moana, The Phantom of the Opera, La La Land, Wicked, and even the best movie of all time, Shrek.
In addition to piano, there’s also sheet music for brass, drums, guitar, strings, vocals and woodwind.
Waaay back in 2007 when Scribd first launched, it was solely a document sharing platform. It wasn’t until 2009 that ebooks were thrown in the mix. Though it’s not a headline feature these days, document sharing is still alive and kicking on Scribd. There, you’ll find everything from business templates and court filings to academic papers and essays. The documents section alone is not worth the monthly fee, but it’s not a bad addition, either.
Scribd Australia features and user experience
Now that we know what kinds of content Scribd has to offer, it’s time to delve into what the service is actually like to use. Honestly, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
The Scribd app for iOS and Android, in my experience, was user-friendly and easy to navigate. No complaints there. The website, on the other hand, is a little clunky. But given most people would rather read a book on their phone or tablet rather than their laptop, it’s not something that many will even notice.
The real drawback of Scribd just so happens to be Kindle Unlimited’s greatest quality: ereader compatibility. While Kindle Unlimited (unsurprisingly) allows its content to be read on any Kindle ereader as well as via its iOS and Android app, Scribd isn’t compatible with any popular ereader brand. There’s almost certainly some copyright licensing issues at work here, but it’s still a major limitation.
On the upside, your Scribd membership does include a number of extra perks, giving subscribers full access to radio app TuneIn Premium, education apps Peak Pro and FarFaria, and streaming apps Mubi, CuriosityStream, and CONtv + Comics.
Is it worth it?
Whether or not Scribd is worth the $13.99 monthly asking price is entirely up to you. If you love audiobooks and want something cheaper than Audible, want a bunch of magazine subscriptions for the price of one, or if you’re a budding musician looking for some new tunes, the answer is absolutely yes. However, as someone who prefers ebooks to audiobooks, I personally can’t see the value in continuing the subscription beyond the 30-day free trial given how few titles are on offer. Still, it’s well worth giving it a go and finding out for yourself.