Areas of Improvement for Scribd

Scribd.comI have been using Scribd for about 8 weeks now. I am very happy with the service as a whole and really do think it is something worth exploring for ebooks and audiobook readers. But there are definitely areas that have room for improvement. Below are 5 areas that I think really need to be fixed (or the process improved) to make Scribd an excellent service. This is not my main review (I really do like Scribd—this is my main review), but Scribd for all of its strengths has a lot of room to grow.

Audiobook playback

Audiobooks are the main reason I am subscribing to Scribd. I enjoy the access to the ebooks as well, but I have a huge library of unread ebooks, so that is less of a need. Over the past seven weeks I have listened to all or part of 20 audiobooks. And every single one of the audiobooks had some problem with the audiobook hanging between chapters, skipping to the end of a chapter, bad cuts between chapters or syncing between devices. One book had so many problems I have given up trying to listen to it because I just can’t get it to play, no matter how many times I delete and reload it or what device I listen to it on.

I would assume that the next update to the apps will fix these problems. But I have used the android app, the iOS app and the computer browser. All three have similar problems. Some of the problems are clearly just bugs that need to be worked through. For instance, if I starts listening to an audiobook on my Amazon Fire HD 6 and then do not explicitly close of the the book and turn off the app, about half of the time, the sync process will prevent me from listening to the book at all on my iPhone until I go back and listen to it again on the Fire and close out completely. But the hard transitions and skipping to the end might be problems with the audiobooks themselves.

Also there is no reason that an audiobook that has been fully downloaded to your device should have several minutes (or even several seconds) of buffering between chapters.

Update: the iOS app has had a couple of updates that the audiobooks are much more stable, although not always perfect.

Dictionary for ebooks

You know how people say you don’t appriciate something until you have to live without it, well that is certainly the case for the built in dictionary in my kindle. I don’t think that I use the dictionary all that much, until I have an ereader that does not have a dictionary. That should be a fairly simple update (says the non-programmer).

History of Books Read 

It makes sense that most people would want to order your books based on what you have most recently read. But I like a clean interface and on the mobile apps that most recent history does not seem to expire. So all of the books I have opened since I started using Scribd show up there. There is an option to clear the history in the iOS app, but it does not actually clear anything that I could tell.

Also I like to keep track of books I read. So I don’t want to delete the books from my Scribd library, I want to just mark them finished. On the computer browser that moves them to a different section in your library, but that does not clear them from the recently read list.

Database Clean Up

I have noticed that even in the couple weeks I have been using Scribd that some of the database issues that I had initially were corrected. But there are far too many problems in the book database. I will search for a book and it won’t come up with a title search, but it will come up with an author search. Or an author has multiple entries with different lists of books on each. Or sometimes the publisher is listed as the author instead of the actual author.

All of this makes it hard to find the books you are looking for, which detracts from the actual reading.

Collections

I started to make a some collections to help me better organize the books I was interested in reading That is until I realized that the collections were not accessible by the mobile apps. So the mobile apps need to have access to the collections or there needs to be some other organizing principle other than list every book in your library. The library is basically a wish list/reminder system. You are not actually checking a book out or moving it. I add a book to my library every time I run across something that I think I might potentially want to read someday. So it is not surprising that I have quickly accumulated about 400 books in my Scribd library. I don’t want to have to sort through all of them every time I want to start a new book. So there needs to be some system that will help the user organize what they want to read.

Update: the one of the recent updates to the iOS app allows you to view (but not edit) collections from your iPhone.

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