While magazine, newspaper and book publishers wrestle with the logistics and technical details of publishing to the Apple iPad, Scribd has an alternative: a “send-to-device” feature that lets people send documents to their e-readers or smartphones for reading on the go.
The new feature, reported in the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago and confirmed by Scribd Wednesday, will support most smartphones, as well as the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, Cool-er and Entourage Edge, among other e-book readers.
Scribd, founded in March 2007, is a document-sharing social network that connects mostly written content (documents and presentations) with a social network of readers. The company claims that 10 million documents have been published on the site to date, including non-copyrighted and amateur content as well as some professional, for-pay content from publishers like Simon & Schuster, Lonely Planet, O’Reilly, and the Chicago Tribune.
When reading a document on the Scribd website, readers can now click a “send to device” button that will pop up a menu of possible devices. Select the Kindle, for instance, and Scribd will ask for your Kindle’s email address, and will then send a Kindle-formatted document to that address. For smartphones like the iPhone, Scribd will ask for a phone number; it then texts the URL of a web-accessible PDF file to the phone.
The send to devices feature will work with any non-DRM-protected content in the Scribd library, or about 95% of its documents (including, for instance, O’Reilly texts — but not Simon & Schuster books).
By late March, the company also plans to offer apps for the Android OS, iPhone and other devices. Scribd CEO Trip Adler told Wired that these apps will synchronize with Scribd on other platforms — so you could leave off reading a long document at your desk and pick up where you left off on your iPhone. Like the Scribd website, the apps will also include social features, so you can share documents you particularly like with your friends, for instance.
Scribd also announced a new application programming interface (API) that device manufacturers and app developers can use to integrate more fully with the Scribd network.
Unlike Apple, which plans to use the relatively stripped-down EPUB format for publishing iPad books, Scribd relies primarily on PDF documents, which retain the publishers’ formatting, layout and font choices better. (The service also accepts Word documents and PowerPoint presentations.)
Scribd will also be converting its documents to EPUB format for many mobile devices.
Adler doesn’t foresee any conflict with publishers — or with Apple, which has already announced its own plans to sell e-books for the iPad.
“In general our goal is to provide these devices with the long tail of content that isn’t already available through publishers… like people’s school papers, PowerPoint presentations, and short stories. So I think we’re really complementing publishers’ content.”
The new “Send to Device” feature is scheduled to be available today.