Scribd, a youtube for documents

Martin Brinkmann
Mar 7, 2007
Updated • May 30, 2013

It was only a matter of time until someone put YouTube clones on the web that did not cover movies and videos but other file types such as documents. Scribd is one of the first sites that gives its users the opportunity to upload - or even bulk upload - many types of documents including pdf, txt and doc. Every single document can be viewed in the same three formats even without being logged in, similar to what YouTube is offering for videos.

The document formats however add some functionality that YouTube is not including at the current time. It is possible to search documents for phrases which is only working if the document has not been scanned but is available as text. One of the nicest features of Scribd is however that you can download mp3 files of the texts to listen to them in your mp3 player of choice, or even listen to the documents online.

All documents can be embedded on websites as well which may be useful for webmasters who make available documents to their readers on their websites.

Interaction is important for sites like Scribd and they have been doing a great job to include interactivity on the site. Registered users can for instance vote for articles and leave comments, or take a look at similar documents that are shown in the sidebar. Tagging is an integral part of the site which help users find related documents just by browsing tags on Scribd.

I like Scribd a lot. They seem to have a problem with copyrights though. A quick search for php for instance revealed Php for Dummies for instance that should never appear on Scribd. Users do upload mag scans as well, I was able to read the latest Macworld online because a user uploaded it to Scribd.

Update: Scribd seems to have expanded its offering. The service is now not only offering free documents for users to read and download freely, but also paid documents and books that users of the site can buy to read or download. Free previews are available before a buying decision needs to be made.

You can browse the site using the search that is displayed at the top, or by selecting one of the site's categories such as business, law or science as a starting point. The reader's functionality is quite good. You get zoom options to zoom in or out of the text which increases or decreases the text accordingly.

Upload options for document formats are still available. You can upload files from your local system, import documents from Google Docs, enter text to create a document on the fly, or use a bulk desktop uploader to upload several document file types from the local system.

Premium accounts are now also available for $12 per month or $4 per month when paid annually that makes available additional features like options to print any document, download documents as pdf files or in any other available format, or to send documents to mobile devices.


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  1. johan said on January 19, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Almost two years passed and Scribd is a winner, now a days called the youtube of documentsharing. Obama used it in his election campaign and 50 million people visit scribd every month. On www, you can find an interview with Trip Adler. Of course Youtube embedded:

  2. Tina said on March 8, 2007 at 7:14 am

    There is another cool new company in this space. It is called OpenFloodgate. Their slogan is, “Opening the path to publication to everyone.� This site now allows you to share your work (anything that can be uploaded as a doc or pdf) and will soon allow you to sell it. Also, you can make each work public, private, or only available to a select “club.� Check it out at

  3. gnome said on March 7, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    Don’t mention it Martin. Always glad to be of assistance mate! :)

  4. Martin said on March 7, 2007 at 10:01 am

    Thanks for the tip gnome, added the link ;)

  5. gnome said on March 7, 2007 at 9:45 am

    A fantastic find, but I’ll have to admit a pretty useful bit is definitely missing:


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