Either way: given that many public libraries offer ebook rentals for free, Scribd should be marketing to them rather than directly to customers.
The potential for browsing will be increased. However, the actual user experience of browsing for books on the internet still pretty much sucks. Most places take the low-hanging fruit and have pretty good searching capability. However, searching and browsing are not the same experience. Recommendations (like from Amazon) is not browsing -- it's prompting based on intentional searching.
To do online browsing well, you have to come back to what the UX for browsing in a library or a bookstore feels like. You wander around spaces, and pick out books that catch your attention. Illustrations on book covers means a lot more. And for people like me that process information kinesthetically, the spatial relationships of the books (where it is on the shelf, which shelf it is on, how many steps it takes to go down one aisle, how wide are the aisles in relation to how far I can stretch my arms, etc.) matters a lot more.
I've toyed with the notion of creating a dedicated Android app to prototype this idea. That is, creating an online browsing experience to replace my bookshelf so that I can show it off for guests. Some of the lessons that can be extracted from creating that would apply to an online browsing experience -- or a physical retail experience that includes an online component.
Looking at how Scribd redid their site to support this, I think they understand some of the issues. But in the end, it looks more like they are copying Netflix rather than really rethinking at a more fundamental level of what "browsing" means as an experience.
In terms of non-fiction, I've discovered tons of books at a university library by searching the catalog for a few books on a given topic, then going to the shelf and looking at all the books around it, which I would not have otherwise found.
I'd love some kind of Dewey Decimal browser with a bunch of extra filters. I don't know if that's feasible.
See, that's what I mean. When you're creating a space to show off or show case books, you're not really using any structured form of organization. The experience is more a form of an art. It's more like creating an art gallery or a museum than it is replicating a category system. The category system is easy; crafting a museum experience, that's harder.
Perhaps take a cue from fashion brands like Gilt who have had to recreate the retail experience for shoppers.
(someone please do this . . . please)
I'm thinking more along the lines of an art gallery, or a museum, or an amusement park. You have paths with one or two limited choices, and allow you to wander from exhibit to exhibit, collection to collection. You have maps or indices to take you directly to a particular area if you are busy. The point is to have an experience, the way you can wander around a mall looking at things. It is not efficient, and that's the point.
The word "browsing" comes from the way browsers behave in the wild. These are grazing animals that wander along with the herd, eating things as they come. What Scribd and Netflix does is technically not browsing.
Typically books are arranged alphabetically and thematically.
Some times, shelf placement is a variable in marketing.
When you take shelf placement as marketing to it's logical extreme, you end up with something like Amazon -- where you've optimized for conversions rather than overall user experience. As any Sales / Marketing person can tell you, best experience != most conversions.
People are indecisive when confronted with many choices.
I could see browsing as a great ideal for subscription services though. Amazon and most e-commerce is a bad comparison though, as browsing is generally bad for transactional businesses (due to reasons above). This is yet another reason why traditional book stores are at a disadvantage.
I think though, the rest of your argument is sketchy. "Amazon and most e-commerce is a bad comparison though, as browsing is generally bad for transactional businesses" That's great, except that Amazon is not optimized for browsing, it is optimized for searching, as I've mentioned in my comment.
That said, good luck to them :-)
There are lots of things like this. Churches. How do we do churches without gods? How do we allow young people to spend a few years focusing on their minds without universities. Can we have universities after going to lectures becomes obsolete?
Technology is eating a lot of things. It's eating them faster than we can replace them.
Maybe it's more of a feature than a bug. :)
Think like a nuclear war and the resulting EMP wipes out most of the US/EU/Asia electronics.
Think even a massive solar flare that fries the majority of the electronic equipment.
Edit: tried the mobile app and it looks great there
This is probably an attempt at DRM.
It's effective at preventing a simple copy/paste or "view source" but ineffective against an adversary of any sophistication.
I've seen this used in PDF files before. There, if you have a pristine copy of the embedded font, you can just look up a copy of the character program to find the original value. But it's effective against naive pdf to text or pdf to html services.
Then again, you could just ocr the rendered text, so I guess the obfuscation technique only has to be as effective as rendering the text as a bitmap.
If so, dont hesitate to contact me personally at gabriel (at) scribd.com and I will look into this issue.
Anyway, not too much of a good first impression for non techies.
for word in $(cat /etc/dictionaries-common/words);
echo A Netflix for $word;
In the app, searching is abysmal. There's no way to specify the type of keyword you're searching for, so if it's an author, you'll probably have to wade through a sea of wildly irrelevant results to find that maybe they don't even have anything from that author.
I grabbed two different versions of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein, both of which the website proudly stated were included in my subscription. Neither was a truely optimized ebook. More like PDF images, so the text or pages didn't scale.
The reading experience on the app is sub par. No options for font type, size, or color; no background options; or margin options. No "night mode" or similar.
There's also often not an indication that a book is just a preview on the website. I added Cormac McCarthy's Child of God to my library, and the app told me that it wasn't available in my country (US), but I could read it on the website, but I discovered it was a preview only.
Related to that, when searching on the website, it seems to prioritize purchase-only books over subscription books. I understand the why, but it's really frustrating to have to start scrolling to get to what most people will be looking for.
Then there's the trouble with having to wade through the sea of user-uploaded content. It seems like there should either be a separate app for the subscription portion, or at least a way to search ONLY that.
All in all, I really wish this was something I could see myself paying for, but right now, I think it's kind of a mess.
This is extremely valuable product feedback. You are completely right that the Scribd product delivered a terrible experience in this case. And the reason goes to the heart of one of the most difficult product design issues we've had: combining user generated and professional content.
An explanation is not a substitute for a fix, but in a nutshell what happened here is that you found copies of Frankenstein that had been uploaded by users. While the books we receive from publishers are ePub formatted and reflow nicely on a phone with controllable font settings, many user-uploaded works are PDFs.
We definitely do not a good enough job of messaging whether content is UGC or publisher, PDF or ePUB. We are working very hard on this. In the meantime, if you want to keep trying the app, here are some simple tips if you want to look at books only:
- You can search through books only (click the books tab in search results)
- Look for the "verified" badge which appears on publisher-provided material
- The content browseable from http://www.scribd.com/browse/books is only publisher provided books.
I'd love to hear more product feedback - this was very helpful for us. Feel free to email me directly (email is in my profile).
Sounds like it's free to browse, but the publisher gets paid if the book is actually read. I assume that publishers would pay authors at whatever rate they were already paying for ebooks.
This works well for the distributor and the consumer but has yet to work well for the producer or the publisher. (note - I recognize it's unpopular to support the publisher in this case)
Either way, that's not an intuitive conclusion. I've seen a lot of films on Netflix I would have never seen otherwise. Lots of Korean films for example. I can't think of another way I'd have been exposed to this content. So in that respect, if the publisher is seeing any compensation at all it seems like a good investment.
I've also seen a number of older US releases that are on my "eh, got a couple hours to burn, I'll give it a shot" list. I wouldn't have bothered to commit to a $3.99 iTunes rental for those features, but on Netflix it's "sure, why not?".
I (and most people I assumed) don't really have the patience to wait a few years for 1st-tier media to drop on Netflix, so it really doesn't substitute existing consumption.
Except in children's programming I guess now that I think about it. Much more convenient to have Curious George or what have you without the barrage of advertisements on cable.
Guess what, when I'm googling for some PDF or I find some guy's slides, I don't want to tell my friends, and I don't want to "buy the article" for $14.99 or whatever like it's frickin' JSTOR.
Power readers are probably a small niche, but they're also a profitable niche. Younger readers (13-16), especially female, tend to consume YA novels like we consume HN posts. Vast fortunes have been made catering to that segment.
How is this service better than a library card?