Scribd started out as a service where users could share different types of written content (writers at TechCrunch still use it to share documents that we want to embed in our posts), but last year the company announced its intentions to become a Netflix-style subscription e-book service, where users pay $8.99 a month for unlimited access to the Scribd library.
This marks Scribd’s first major travel deal, though co-founder and CEO Trip Adler argued that the company’s model makes a great fit for travelers. For example, if you’re taking a trip across Europe, you no longer have to worry about carrying multiple physical books around with you, or paying the full price for the e-book guide to every city and country that you visit. (Adler said when he went on a trip around the world recently and ended up “completely winging it” for those very reasons.)
With Scribd, you get access to electronic versions of the full Lonely Planet library without any additional cost. And if you don’t want to worry about cellular data while traveling, you can download the books ahead of time for offline reading.
Scribd is available through iPhone, iPad, and Android apps, as well as a desktop/mobile website, and it made some other changes, both to support the Lonely Planet deal and more broadly, to make it easy for readers to navigate reference books. It’s now possible to search an ePub file (you could search PDFs before) and to leave bookmarks in the apps (which you could already do on the web), Adler said. Behind the scenes, Scribd has also implemented a new compensation system with Lonely Planet (which the BBC sold last year to NC2 Media), where the publisher gets a partial fee for partially read books. He argued that this model makes more sense for reference materials that you’re less likely to read from cover to cover.
The startup soft-launched its subscription e-book service in January of last year before announcing it in October. At the time, Adler said subscriptions had been growing 60 percent each month, and he told me yesterday that growth has accelerated since then, turning into “a pretty big business for us.” He also said Scribd’s library now includes more than 300,000 titles.