Scribd adds new content limits

scribdIf you are a subscriber to the Scribd service, you’ve probably gotten an email from the company letting you know that it is changing its membership terms. You can read the blog announcement here on their blog,  There are some good articles on the service changes here, here and here.

The bottom line is that new terms severely limit the amount of content that readers can access through the service in a month.

The new membership will allow for reading three books and one audiobook. These monthly reads will be given as credits. Unused credits will roll over to the following month. The membership will also include Scribd Selects,  “a rotating collection of books and audiobooks handpicked by our editors, to which you will have unlimited access.” Finally, membership includes “substantial previews of any book or audiobook” and unlimited access to the sheet music and documents available on the service.

As a Scribd subscriber, I am not surprised. As Nate Hoffelder points out in his post on The Digital Reader, I, too, am surprised that it took so long. While I agree that the service is probably unsustainable as-is, these are pretty radical changes.

When Scribd first started, it was an unlimited book and audiobook service. In June of last year, Scribd cut most of the romance and erotica titles from the catalog. Then,  last August, Scribd limited  audiobook  access to one per month, given as a credit.  Additional audiobook credits could be purchased for $8.95. Ever since the audiobook change, Scribd has been pushing more and more audiobook versions to its members on its Friday blogposts.

Scribd insists that most of its members only read 3 books or less per month and that this latest change will only affect about 3% of its members. If I look at my own use of the service, I usually read about 2 or 3 books a month there. (I also use Kindle Unlimited.) Since the books I read on Scribd are traditionally published, even being  limited to only 3 titles, I still save money. So as a reader, that’s not the part that concerns me the most about this upcoming change.

As a subscriber, I do have issues with the bait and switch aspect of this. Twice within the past year, Scribd has made dramatic changes in its terms of service, changes made without input from the members who use the service.  And I’m sorry, but promoting “substantial previews of any book or audiobook” as a membership feature comes across as disingenuous. Previews are ubiquitous enough not to be considered a feature. Those kinds of actions breed mistrust and make me wonder, what will they change next?

The real deal-breaker for me may very well be the rotating collection. I have pretty eclectic tastes and generally do not like curated collections. I also like to read a book when I want it, not necessarily when it is available. Part of the reason for paying for a service like Scribd instead of using the public library is to avoid the waitlists and checkout time restrictions. A rotating collection adds the possibility of another layer of restriction to my reading, one that I was trying to avoid.

Rotating titles mean the service also has much less value for me as a barometer in choosing and purchasing books.  Since the resurrection of agency pricing, like many people,  I watch the sales more carefully than I did in the past. Sometimes, my decision whether to purchase a book that on sale is influenced by whether or not the book is in Scribd’s catalog. If it is available there, I might pass on a title that I am not sure I’ll like or one that I know I won’t be reading right away. I also read a lot of sci-fi and mystery series, many of which are long and which  I do not necessarily want to own. Checking prices and finding out if the series titles are available in Scribd has, up to this point, been a big factor for me in deciding to start a series. A rotating collection makes it impossible to know whether any  title is likely be in the collection in the near future.

While Scribd is emphasizing that they are not raising prices, it is very clear that the perception of value for the service has definitely changed. It will be interesting to see what this does to the subscriber numbers.What started out as an all-you-can-eat buffet has been pared down to a value meal. My public library is looking better and better all the time.

Are you a Scribd subscriber? How do you feel about the new membership terms? As a new subscriber, would you be willing to sign up under the new terms?

17 thoughts on “Scribd adds new content limits

  1. I’m a scribd subscriber, and I dislike these new terms. so I will quit. Look, it’s not $9 to buy 3 books, it’s $9 to read 3 books once — ie $3 to borrow a book, A book bought can be keep forever or resold. Publishers and scribd itself have vain dreams of easy money. The proper comparison is a lending-library. I belong to a private library here in San Francsisco – $90 / year and I borow far more than 3 books a month.
    Actually I’m amazed that 97% of scribd customers would read fewer than 3 books a month: they’re not readers, or else they don’t like scribd much. What sort of target audience is that?

  2. Mark, good point about the borrowing. Scribd may *say* that only 3% will be affected, but they are the ones providing that figure. Again, their self-interest may be showing.Personally, I have doubts, although it is in line with my personal usage pattern. But I also purchase and use other services and Scribd is just one source of books for me, not the only one. We will see how this affects their subscriber numbers. If a lot of people bail on the service, it obviously affected a larger percentage than they admitted. 🙂

  3. Though not surprising, this is disappointing. I will hold onto my Scribd subscription only until the new membership terms kick in, in order to finish off a few titles that I’ve been looking forward to. As well as being a long-time library ebook borrower, I’ve already signed up for the 30-day free trial of Kindle Unlimited, which is looking like a viable replacement, given my reading interests. Sorry, Scribd, it was nice while it lasted.

  4. Justin, I would be interested in hearing your impressions of Kindle Unlimited at the end of your trial period.

    I also use KU because I read a lot of indie authors, but I use it in addition to, not instead of Scribd. On Scribd, I read mostly newer titles and series backlist ones. I will probably keep Scribd for a least a bit longer in order to report on the changes in the catalog. 🙂

    • Glinda –

      I’m only about halfway through my trial period, and I’m loving it. Most of my casual reading is in the urban fantasy & sci-fi genres, and Amazon has a lot of good writers in both of these fields, including a few that Scribd had and then lost the rights to (e.g. Annie Bellet – Twenty Sided Sorceress series, Craig Schaeffer – Daniel Faust series).

      I’ll miss being able to casually browse Scribd’s nonfiction – Having worked in public library service in both professional and paraprofessional capacities since 1998, I value the existence of books that I wouldn’t read straight through, but pick relevant/useful bits of information from. If I stayed with Scribd through this month’s membership changes, every time I opened a nonfiction title, I’d do so knowing that I’m giving up one fun read, which isn’t worth it. “X for Dummies” might be useful, but it’s not what I look forward to reading. My public library system thankfully subscribes to OneclickDigital for audiobooks, and Overdrive for ebooks and audiobooks, so there’s still good options.

      While I’ll also miss the comics and graphic novels, I may eventually pick up a membership with Marvel Comics’ own unlimited service. I mostly read Marvel titles on Scribd anyways, so this would be a good replacement.

      • Thanks for the insight, Justin. I also like Kindle Unlimited as I read a lot of Indie authors.I find that I tend to read series on both services. Since getting KU, I have bought less free books since I can read the ones in KU that would be free anytime. That has saved a lot of clutter on the Kindle.

        I don’t do much reading of comics any more, but Nate from the Digital Reader did a post on free comics online at Since Amazon bought Cosmixology, it seems that they have a lot available for the Kindle. :).

  5. I am extremely disappointed in their “bait and switch” tactics. I purchased their year’s subscription service in June. Considering the circumstances, I would have been happy if they deferred their new subscription program until June. I am not an avid fiction reader, usually 1-3 books a month, but enjoy utilizing nonfiction books for reference purposes. I will no longer use their “service” and will warn others about my experience, which will likely cost them a loss in revenue.

    • I think that a lot of us are with you in the disappointment department. This is the third time Scribd has basically changed the rules on their subscribers, so they are going to have a hard time defending themselves against the “bait and switch” accusation.

      Thanks for stopping by, Jay!

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  8. As an avid reader, I had finally subscribed, only to get this notice a month later. I was really upset. I live in a smaller town, and my library has a very limited ebook collection. I suffer severe health problems, and have insomnia. I tend to read 2-3 books a day. I belong to kindle unlimited, but all the authors are indie or self published. I find many that are interesting, but can’t find many books I want to read. I also find that libraries are prone to having random books in some of the longer series. As someone on an extremely tight budget, there isn’t enough room to buy books to enjoy, and keep me entertained. And I really hate t.v.

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