Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scribd for Book Promotion

Yesterday, I discovered Scribd. Scribd is the latest hope of publishers and authors who want to promote their books online.

Users sign up, and then they get to see book excerpts, and even full-length books, for free. According to a recent article in TechCrunch, such major publishers as Random House, Simon & Schuster, Workman Publishing Co., and Berrett-Koehler have already begun explore the book promotion value of Scribd. Scribd beats the book excerpts that you can find on Google and Amazon, the article contends, because Scribd lets users embed the book excerpts in their own blogs and on their own Web sites.

And, like Google and Amazon, Scribd levels the proverbial playing field between mainstream books and self-published books. Just as all cats look grey in the dark, all books look equally palatable -- or not -- on the computer monitor. Every book benefits to the same degree from Scribd's book promotion value, regardless of the publisher, or the author's renown.

Which leads me to my own beef about Scribd (and every other site that offers books, or book excerpts, for free. This peeve doesn't involve copyright issues or philosophical concerns (of course I don't want pirated books to abound on the Net, nor do I want paper books to disappear) but, rather, readability.

I tried to read one of Random House's titles online via Scribd, and all I got for my efforts was the beginnings of a headache. Is anyone really going to read a book on his or her computer monitor? I understand that ebook readers are nearly (although, perhaps, not quite) ready for prime time. But does any publisher, including self publishers, really expect potential book buyers to start reading a book -- and to enjoy that book -- while glued to the Scribd site?

It would be nice if Scribd had revolutionized the art of reading a book online, but to be fair, that's not its business. Scribd does have buy-in from enough major publishers that, maybe, I'll simply be outvoted. Maybe potential book buyers and the media will flock to Scribd. Me? I'm not flocking. But that might just be my loss.

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