Scribd, the document-hosting service that calls itself “the largest social publishing company in the world,” has launched a series of mobile services and features for sending books and other documents to any portable device, including a set of open APIs, and according to CEO Trip Adler, the company plans to launch mobile apps for the iPhone, Android and iPad in the next few months. He also said that Scribd, which has about 50 million unique visitors a month, will soon have published more books than the entire U.S. publishing industry did last year.
“We’ve spent the last few years building a repository of 10 million documents,” Adler said in an interview in advance of the launch. “Now we’re launching a way to really easily read these documents on any mobile device. So whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation or a book or a homework project, you can now send that to any mobile device and read it there.” One of the problems with the e-reader market, he says, is that “people don’t really know what to buy, or what to read on them — with these new services, as long as it’s on Scribd you know that you can read it on any device.”
Scribd’s launch involves three separate products:
- A “send-to-device” option that will now appear at the top of every document the service hosts, which pulls up a list of all the devices Scribd can send to, including the Kindle, iPhone, Sony Reader, etc.
- The Scribd Open Platform for E-Readers (SOPED), a development platform and set of application programming interfaces that companies can use to integrate with Scribd’s mobile services.
- A series of mobile apps for the iPhone, Android, Kindle, iPad and other portable devices that make it easier to send and receive Scribd documents and books.
Adler told me that Scribd briefly thought about coming out with its own e-reading device, but “only for about a minute. It didn’t really make sense, because we’re a web software company, not a hardware company. So we decided to embrace as many different devices as we could.” Through a variety of different protocols — email, text messaging, etc. — the new “send-to-device” service supports the Kindle, the Nook, the iPhone, the Android, Windows Mobile devices, the BlackBerry, the Palm, the Onyx, the JetBook, the EZReader, the IRex and the Cool-ER. Adler said support for other devices will be coming soon.
In contrast to companies like Apple and Amazon, which are concentrating on signing deals with major publishers for established authors, Adler said that Scribd focuses on what the company calls “the long tail of content.” That means anything from a student’s PhD thesis or a PowerPoint presentation to a self-published children’s story or a cookbook. “We specialize in all kinds of material that isn’t being published by traditional publishers,” he said. “About 95 percent of the content on Scribd is free.”
That said, Scribd spokesperson Michelle Laird noted that the company is also working with major publishers such as Simon & Schuster and Random House. Although some publishers have criticized the company in the past for hosting copyright-infringing copies of their works, Adler says that Scribd has “made tremendous progress with our copyright management system.” Laird noted that Wiley & Sons — publishers of the popular “Dummies” series of self-help technical books — has also agreed to put some of its content on Scribd, after being satisfied by the company that it would be protected.
Adler said that the number of books published through Scribd is “doubling every six months or so,” and that soon the company will have published more books than the entire U.S. publishing industry did last year, a number he estimated at about 300,000. The Scribd CEO also said that he isn’t concerned about competitor DocStoc’s recent launch of an online store for selling documents. “Jason at DocStoc has been saying that we’re just a book publisher, but we’re really not,” he said. “We host all kinds of documents.”
Laird noted that while DocStoc requires those who sell through its store to be approved, Scribd “allows anyone to sell in our store.” Among the document services that Scribd has deals with, she said that ProQuest provides hundreds of thousands of graduate-level theses that students can read and use to study for a graduate degree. The service also has a branded, embeddable reader that is used by publications such as the New York Times to host documents related to new stories.
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