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Ebook service Scribd wants to make it easier to find your next read

Philip Michaels | Aug. 8, 2014
Algorithms seem like perfectly pleasant things that are eager to help you find what you're looking for. But they lack that human touch. And the way Scribd sees it, a little dash of humanity is just the sort of thing you need when you're trying to figure out what book to read.

Increased competition

Scribd rolls out its souped-up discovery features at an interesting time, with Amazon — the 800-pound gorilla of the book retail world — muscling in on Scribd's market with its own $10-a-month subscription ebook service. But don't assume Thursday's announcement is some sort of hastily-assembled response to Amazon's newfound interest in ebook subscriptions. Friedman says Scribd has been working on this revamp for the past year — and plans to continue perfecting its approach to book discovery.

After all, Scribd has more practical motivations beyond staying one step ahead of Amazon for making it easier for its subscribers to find something worth reading. "Everyone who sells books wants to help you find new books," Friedman said.

Personalizing recommendations has been a tough nut to crack for the companies that sell digital goods. After all, few companies have had enjoyed more success at selling music, movies, and apps than Apple, and yet, that company's recommendation tools haven't really evolved beyond suggesting similar offerings that other customers have bought or pointing users toward lists of top purchases and downloads (And the less said about efforts like Ping, the better.) Other online retailers of various shapes and sizes can't really boast of handling discovery any better.

So has Scribd stumbled upon the magic formula for helping you find something new to read? It's hard to say from seeing one demo, though the initial debut looks promising. The proof will come as users get a chance to put Scribd's book discovery efforts to the test.


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