The Scribd reading experience

The Scribd reading experience

I recently wrote about Scribd now having a

Kindle Fire (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

app for their “all you can read” for $8.99 a month subser (subscription service).

I’m in the midst of the free trial (and have almost finished a book on it), and I thought I’d give you some feedback on how it is as a reader.

My general impression is that it is a good, bare bones reader.

It’s interesting to me how I am missing some things which I never had with a p-book (paperbook), though, and which I do use when reading in the Kindle application on my Fire or on one of our non-Fire readers.

Especially noticeable to me are the lack of:

  • Text-to-speech. At this point, that by itself will keep me from renewing. While I have a philosophical objection to publishers blocking text-to-speech, I don’t think it’s necessary for every device or app to have it. It is impractical for me not to have it, though. I use it often in the car, and I almost feel like I only have half the book without it
  • Dictionary look-up. I don’t use that all that often, but there is no kind of look-up (web or otherwise) that I can see
  • Highlighting. I’ve held my finger on the screen several times not thinking about it, wanting to highlight a passage. That might be because it was an interesting quotation, or because there was a minor error (this book is well proof-read) about which I might want to notify the publisher
  • Bookmarking
  • Notes

You have the text on the “page”…that’s about it.

Even “long pressing” a picture didn’t seem to do anything…I don’t think it has a zoom function.

On the good side, there are controls over the appearance of that text, and navigation controls.

I think my favorite feature is one that the Kindle doesn’t have: “pages left in chapter”. Rather than pages, that’s actually a reference to the number of screens that are left…and if I change the text size, the number adjusts. Interestingly, that’s the most useful measure I’ve found…the amount of time I have left in a chapter just doesn’t seem to be very accurate. I often leave my Kindle open on a screen while I do things, and I think that might be throwing it off.

Speaking of increasing the text size, you do get some good controls there. Tapping in the middle of the page invokes some controls.

One looks like a book, and brings up the Table of Contents (in at least the book I am reading now, you can use it for navigation).

In your bottom right, there is an Aa button, similar to Amazon. Tapping that, I can increase or decrease the text size (there appear to be fourteen options), choose from Default, Sans-serif, or Serif typefaces, and choose white, black, or sepia backgrounds. I’ve been reading the default text on a black background, and it is crisp.

You have the ability to download the book to the device, so you can read offline. That is an icon in your bottom right that looks like a cloud with down arrow on it.

At the top of the screen (after you tap the page), there is a library symbol (three books), with which you can add it to or take it away from your “favorites”. There is a sharing symbol, which lets you like it on Scribd, e-mail it, or “other”. I haven’t played around with that much…e-mailing it would be information about the book, presumably.

So, I would describe it as being all about the reading, without the ability to annotate (or listen to TTS).

Would I pay the $8.99 if they had TTS? Maybe…my Significant Other hasn’t really checked it out enough yet to give me the impression of a less techy user.

The book I’m reading, by the way, is

Crash: When UFOs Fall From the Sky: A History of Famous Incidents, Conspiracies, and Cover-Ups (at AmazonSmile)

by Kevin Randle. Randle is going through all sorts of reported UFO crashes, and generally dismisses them for various reasons, or simply lists them without endorsing them.

The author is a recognized expert on the Roswell Incident and has been seen as an advocate of the reality of an extraordinary event there.

It’s interesting, therefore, that even though this is what we used to call a “seed catalog” type listing, it certainly doesn’t come across as the work of a simple true believer.

Randle writes more about some of the cases, including Shag Harbor and Kecksburg. I would describe the writing as largely intentionally dispassionate, which isn’t all that common (from Skeptics or true believers) in this field. I find that refreshing, although some of the customer reviews on Amazon describe it as “boring”. 😉

I also want to mention that I’ve started to look into


another e-book subser, recently promoted on the Ellen Degeneres show.

It’s a very different concept, much more like Amazon’s own Audible.

You pay a flat rate a month, and can get a certain number of e-books.

For example, you can pay $9.99 a month and get two books. That’s pretty much how it works: about $5 per book, with a strict limit as to how many books you get.

However, you do own the books. If you stop paying, you still get them…so, in a way, it’s like getting an AmazonLocal coupon.

The selection seems very impressive, and they do have a free trial.

The books use the Adobe DRM (Digital Rights Management) system, but they do have an app for a Kindle Fire (hm…I wonder if that app would allow you to read other Adobe DRM books on your Fire?).

I haven’t tested this all much, yet, but I thought I’d let you know. 🙂

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


7 Responses to “The Scribd reading experience”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    Does Amazon currently sell any front-lighted Kindles which support TTS? We lent our K3 to a sight impaired friend in our book club so she could continue her reading (she’s elderly and cannot see to read even with the font set huge on my Paperwhite 2) … she was thrilled with how easy it was for her and decided to buy one for herself. So I went “Kindle shopping” to help her and ran into a brick wall. Maybe I’m just too old and dense, but I could not find any that support TTS. Any suggestions?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Harold!

      Unfortunately, there haven’t been any frontlit Kindles that had text-to-speech…or sound, for that matter.

      The only frontlit Kindle is the Kindle Paperwhite line. It has embedded lighting which is projected from the front at the screen, and then the light bounces off the screen back to your eyes. That’s a very different process from backlighting, where the light source is behind the screen and shines directly at your eyes. Frontlighting is the same process that happens when you read a paperbook with a table lamp…just a lot cooler. 🙂

      In terms of reflective screen devices (ones with no built-in light, front or back), which would be like your Kindle 3, the only one that Amazon sells new is the Kindle DX:

      Kindle DX, Free 3G, 9.7″ E Ink Display, 3G Works Globally

      at AmazonSmile

      That’s the one with the bigger (9.7″) screen, older software, free 3G, but no wi-fi/touchscreen.

      It’s $199.

      You can find used Kindle 3s on Amazon (I saw them for about $40 when I checked.

      If she isn’t doing any sight-reading, though, I might consider the Kindle Fire HDX. It might seem odd to go with a touchscreen, but it has verbal feedback. It also has Mayday, which can really come in handy, especially for the non-technical among us. I like the voice software on the KFHDX much better than the voice software on the Kindle DX.

      The chief drawback might be the shorter battery charge life…but using TTS (text-to-speech) on a reflective (nonlit) screen also draws down the battery charge pretty quickly.

  2. Tom Semple Says:

    Regarding Entitle app, it is not available in Amazon Appstore for Android, so I assume Entitle must have a download link somewhere to get the .apk (although I could not find one). The Entitle app does not support Adobe DRM, so you could not use it to side load such ebooks. Adobe DRM is used if you download an epub file for use with 3rd party apps and readers. By such means you ‘own’ the ebook. You could also read it with a reading app that supports TTS, and more advanced reading features (such as Mantano Reader, which I have on my Fire HD for just such purposes). That’s probably the preferred way of using Entitle as their reading system doesn’t seem to offer much.

    I don’t find the existing ebook subscription services very alluring. Mostly it is because of the more restricted choices, and the constant pressure to ‘get ones money’s worth’. At least with Entitle you can ‘mine’ their selection to get $5 books that would cost a little more elsewhere, and when you run out of things that you like, cancel the subscription.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Tom!

      You get the app for the Kindle Fire here:

      They suggest you do it from the Kindle Fire itself, which makes sense.

      In terms of Adobe DRM, Entitle says:

      “4. Do I have to use the native app to read books from Entitle?
      Nope! You can read your books on any device that supports Adobe DRM including, but not limited to, Nook, Kobo, and Sony Reader. Adobe has a complete list of all devices that you can transfer your books to.”


      “5. Can I read my books on my computer? Windows, Mac, or Linux?
      Absolutely! Our books support Adobe Digital Editions, which is a free download. Once that is installed, go to ‘My Downloads’ and click on the ‘Save to Computer’ link under the book you’d like to read. Open the downloaded .acsm file in Adobe Digital Editions, select Entitle as the vendor, and enter your Entitle email/password. More detailed instructions can be found here.

      For Linux users: the ADE installer should work under Wine. Detailed instructions can be found on Google. Detailed instructions can be found on Google or on this page”

      I’m guessing that my use of “Adobe DRM” was perhaps imprecise when referring to Adobe Digital Editions?

      From what I saw, I think you can save quite a bit with the $5 books…if you like mainstream books. I checked five of their “Best Sellers and New Releases”. The prices at Amazon were


      The savings may be higher on less popular books (which tend to be discounted more deeply at Amazon).

      When a write a bigger article on it, I’ll do more research. 🙂 I would guess that with a half an hour or so of looking, you could routinely save $10 buying two books a month from Entitle. However, those may be books which you wouldn’t have bought otherwise. It would also be possible to spend more money at Entitle: I saw at least one which is $3.50 at Amazon.

      • Tom Semple Says:

        I installed the Entitle app on my Android tablet and one can side load books. The app is done by Bluefire and licenses Adobe Reader Mobile. But I didn’t see a way to supply an Adobe ID, and it wouldn’t open the DRMed title I tried unless I logged in with an Entitle user account, which I didn’t want to create, at least not yet. I think there are 3 forms of Adobe DRM now: ‘classic’ (used by Kobo, Google) ‘B&N’ or ‘passhash’, and ‘vendor’ (which appears to be what Entitle is using). I might have to do the trial just to see how this works.

        I wish one could browse the available books without an account.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Tom!

        Oh, I see! I thought you were referring to reading the books you got from Entitle in another app, not whether you could read books bought somewhere else in the Entitle app.

        When I write something more on it, you can see the exchange where I recommended that they make some of the features live (at least in a simulated manner) without an account. 🙂

  3. Round up #255: authors’ insults, HBO ruh-roh | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] written before about testing out Scribd, one of the big subsers. That’s what I call subscription […]

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