When it comes to movies and music, the current streaming generation is blessed with excellent “all-you-can-eat” services like Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, Apple Music, and others, which have rendered local rental outlets redundant. But eBooks can’t yet claim to replace libraries.
There used to be four main players in the eBook subscription game: Oyster, Entitle, Kindle Unlimited, and Scribd. Out of those, Oyster and Entitle have shut down. That leaves just Scribd and Kindle Unlimited. So, as we sit here in 2016, which is the best eBook subscription service you can buy?
What Scribd and Kindle Unlimited Offer
Before we get into the details of their catalogs and limitations, let’s understand what both services have to offer.
Kindle Unlimited (KU) costs $9.99-per-month, offering unlimited eBooks and unlimited audiobooks. It’s not available worldwide, so your country may not support Kindle Unlimited, and even if it does the catalog of books changes by country.
Scribd Unlimited costs $8.99-per-month, offering three items per month out of its library of eBooks, comics, and documents, one audiobook, and unlimited access to “Scribd Selects”, a curated collection of 150,000 books handpicked by a team of editors, whose titles rotate every month or so. While Scribd IS available worldwide, not every title is available in every country.
In terms of price, I’d say this is a tie. That one dollar isn’t much of a difference. Scribd might limit your monthly quantity, but offers more variety. Kindle has seemingly no restrictions, but that limitless offering is only as good as the quality of the eBooks.
Comparing the Book Catalogs
The big question everyone has about these services concerns you are likely to find the kind of books you want to read. So let’s check the two catalogs to see what we find.
Scribd has an advantage here, since it has tied up with big-name publishers including HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, big publishers which vast collections. Both of these have their entire collections up to 2012 or 2013 in the Scribd catalog. Penguin Random House, one of the other major publishers, is also trialing audiobooks on Scribd at the moment.
None of the big publishers have associated with Kindle to put all their books on KU, but the catalog actually has more good titles than you’d expect.
For example, let’s search for Stephen King, renowned writer of horror fiction. King is one of Simon & Schuster’s prized novelists, so you’d expect a good King collection on Scribd Unlimited. But there are only six English titles of his, and none of the megahits you’d expect, like Misery, The Dark Tower series, The Stand, It, etc.
Things are even worse on KU, where all you get is his essay on guns. Compounding the problem is the fact there’s another independent author named Stephen King, whose books are being rented by people who mistake him for the famous novelist.
On the other hand, KU has The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, whereas Scribd only offers an audiobook version of that series.
That said, you are more likely to find famous classics on Scribd rather than Kindle. For example, you’ll get Gone With The Wind or The Great Gatsby on Scribd Unlimited, but not on KU.
I searched several classics and post-2010 bestsellers on both the catalogs. My takeaway was that Scribd has a better collection of books that readers are likely to want. But it’s not as huge a difference as some people make it out to be, and it’s definitely not as simple as saying, “Scribd has the major publishers, Kindle doesn’t, so Scribd is better.”
Have now tried both Scribd & Kindle Unlimited. Both libraries leave a lot to be desired. Far from being the Netflix for books.
— Mia the Snowgirl (@arrhyth_mia) June 23, 2016
Books are about taste, and both of these stores cater to different types of readers. Scribd is excellent for someone who hasn’t explored the world of books too deeply, while Kindle Unlimited is better for those who prefer discovering hidden gems or reading biographies and autobiographies.
I’d recommend that you search both the Scribd and Kindle stores to check what they offer in their Unlimited schemes. Make a list of five books you want to read, and five of your favorite authors, and search both. See which service is a better match for your personal tastes.
- To search on Scribd, go to www.scribd.com/search. Filter “Unlimited only” if you want to restrict your search to what’s in the Unlimited catalog.
- To search on Kindle Unlimited, go to this page or search the Kindle Store in Amazon and filter “eligible for Kindle Unlimited” in the left sidebar.
Where Scribd Scores and Fails
Scribd best feature is revealed when you look past the eBooks alone. It has a vast collection of comic books, as well as several audiobooks you’d love. It’s a varied library of books you can listen to, and many of these are audiobooks narrated by the author, which is the best way to listen to them.
Scribd also has several niche publications, such as its partnership with Lonely Planet. That’s a large collection of travel books at your fingertips—especially handy when deciding on a travel destination.
The comic reader, in my opinion, isn’t as smooth as ComiXology Unlimited or Marvel Unlimited, especially on smartphones. On a tablet, it’s much better. But the problem is that comics hardly make it to Scribd Selects offerings, which means each read counts towards your three-per-month quota.
So, for example, let’s say you want to read Grant Morrison’s entire New X-Men series. This has seven collected paperback volumes. You will read the first three this month, and then wait until your quota is renewed the next month for the next three, and then wait again till you read the last volume. While you can binge-watch all seasons of TV shows on Netflix, you can’t do that here because of Scribd’s limitations.
But my biggest problem with Scribd was that it does not work on any of the best eBook readers. You can only use the Scribd app on a tablet, a smartphones, or a web browser.
Where Kindle Unlimited Scores and Fails
We already know that the Kindle e-reader can make you read more books. So the fact that Kindle Unlimited works on it and Scribd doesn’t is a major advantage for the Kindle. E-readers are easier on your eyes and fantastic for relaxed vacations, so if you like e-readers or own a Kindle, your decision is made.
Another appealing aspect of the Kindle is the community highlights. When other readers mark some sentences as important or add notes, you’ll be able to see them while reading. It sometimes serves as a hint for something that you should look up more about.
While the Kindle Unlimited also has audiobooks, it can’t compare to the collection offered by Scribd. It’s the same with comics and manga. There’s a section for these on KU, but it’s practically useless since you don’t have any major publisher like DC Comics, Marvel, Image, or anyone else. In fact, Harry thinks Kindle Unlimited isn’t worth your money at all.
Scribd vs. Kindle Unlimited In a Nutshell
In the end, deciding between the two services comes down to a few factors. Let me try and simplify it for you:
- If you want to use an e-reader and not a tablet, get Kindle Unlimited. Scribd isn’t available on e-readers.
- If you’re reading on a tablet, Scribd expands your choices through a good collection of audiobooks and comics, which KU lacks.
- If you blindly trust that the best library deserves your money, Scribd is what you should subscribe to. However, I’d advise making a list of your five favorite authors and five books you wanted to read, and searching for them on both services first to see which matches your tastes more.
- Both services have a free trial period, so you can try either before you buy it.
— Lori Leigh Bray (@LoriLeighBray) March 25, 2016
Pro Tip: I love my Kindle e-reader, so Kindle Unlimited makes more sense for me, but I also like to read comics on a tablet. If that sounds like you, the Marvel Unlimited subscription is better than Scribd for price and catalog, although you’ll miss out on other publishers in the bargain.
So, with all this information at hand, which of the two unlimited eBook services will you be subscribing to? Is there any other similar service that you’ve tried and liked, such as OverDrive? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.