Monday, December 5, 2011



The choices for simple document embedding and publishing these days are fairly limited. So, I’m bringing you a review of Scribd, a simple publishing and embedding website for your documents!

You may not have a clear idea as to what Scribd is for when you first come across the site, but in simplest terms, Scribd is a social publishing platform. The social aspect is definitely a major piece, but there are other features that make Scribd extremely handy even if you’re not interested in the social aspect.

You don’t have to pay for Scribd. Like many other online document handling services, Scribd is free to use.

Signing Up

Scribd has recently added login integration through Facebook, so sign up is a simple process using the Facebook button. This connection automatically sets up the social aspects of Facebook on Scribd so anything your friends are reading or sharing will show up on your Scribd homepage. If you don’t have a Facebook account, or you don’t like the idea of using it for Scribd, you can create a separate account.

Once you complete the sign up form Scribd will ask if you’d like to subscribe to any popular publishers. Don’t worry, this is completely optional. In the next step Scribd asks if you want to connect with your Google, Yahoo, or Windows Live contacts who are already using Scribd. Worry not, this is also optional.

Once you’ve completed these steps you’ll be directed to your account home. This is where you’ll be able to get down to using Scribd.

User Interface and Usability

In my opinion Scribd has a somewhat confusing interface design. It tends to be a little crowded and can be distracting. I guess I’ve been spoiled by using more simplistically designed web applications! That said, Scribd is still fairly easy to navigate and use once you know where to find everything. The interface elements are fairly consistent and, more importantly, well-labeled. So while I’m not in love with the design as a whole, the interface does provide everything necessary to get the job done.

Using Scribd

Social Setup

You will probably want to set up the more social pieces of Scribd first. You’ll do this by finding and hovering-over your username in the top-right corner of the page. A drop-down menu appears with a few navigation options. You’ll want to select Settings.

This is the area where you can manage email addresses, your reading preferences, notifications, and setup integration with Facebook, Twitter, etc. The next tab provides options for customizing your profile, and giving potential readers more information about you or your organization. Next, you’ll be able to create ‘badges’ that you can use around the web. Lastly, be sure you look at the options for adjusting your sharing preferences across Scribd and your connected social networks.

Uploading Documents

Uploading documents is a simple, low-click process. The button to start the process is big, blue and clearly labeled ‘Upload.’ You’ll find it on your ‘My Home’ page. A new section will drop down below, providing basic options to set up the document’s, category, title, subscription, and category.

If you’d like, you can also click the Upload button on the top navigation bar. Doing it this way will take you to a page more-specifically designed for uploading or importing your documents. There are also options for uploading Google Documents (very streamlined), selling your documents, creating new documents from scratch, or download the Scribd Desktop Uploader. This is a program that you can install on your computer to upload documents without having to go to the Scribd website. It is not really necessary.

If you are interested in setting additional options, just click one of your document titles to view its page. If you view this page immediately you’ll see the document processing status, with ‘document options’ above.

When the document has finished processing it will be displayed and its options will also show in the right column.

Clicking on the Edit button provides several more options that are not initially displayed after upload. By default a document will be viewable by the public, but you can change this to private. Scribd also provides you with three different downloadable versions of your document: Microsoft Word, plain text and PDF.

Embedding Documents

When viewing one, or a collection of documents, it is easy to quickly share via your social networks, emailing directly to a friend, using a direct full-screen URL or the most commonly used ‘embed.’

Final Thoughts

Scribd is a fantastic way to share and publish documents publically or in private. It functions smoothly and provides options that make it invaluable for anyone needing to publish or share documents.

Scribd’s overall interface is easy to use, if a little bit crowded. While I’m not in love with some of the design elements, it is not difficult to use. I really enjoy seeing that Scribd is at the forefront of the HTML5 movement. They are already providing users with the latest and most capable web technology.

As an online instructor, I find Scribd invaluable in my classes. It allows me to remove the barrier of document transfer from my student’s minds. I simply upload my documents and PowerPoint presentations to Scribd and paste the embed code for each one into my courses. Scribd makes easy work of doing this and my students are appreciative of the extra effort. They like being able to view important documents directly inside of their browsers in addition to having the ability to download if necessary. This is just one way Scribd has helped me and my students. How has it benefitted you?

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