Who will be the YouTube of the bubbling eBook revolution? Online document-sharing service Scribd.com is making a case with 50 million users each month, coupled with recent deals with major publishing houses, including Random House and Simon & Schuster, to offer some of their books free of charge on the site. Sure, Google and Amazon have offered free books online for years, but Scribd stands out because it builds Web features into its service so other blogs and sites can embed books and documents, too.
Sound familiar? YouTube took off because individuals could do its work by embedding videos into their sites. Plus, Scribd will be profitable in six to 12 months from advertising on the site alone, and plans to introduce additional revenue streams, the company said.
Scribd is casting a wide net. Organizations as diverse as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, World Economic Forum, FoxBusiness.com, Dole Institute of Politics, The Atlantic and the Baltimore Police Department all use Scribd to host documents on their own Web sites.
For instance, when a reporter at The Atlantic obtained internal memos from Hillary Clinton's campaign in the fall, the magazine published them on its Web sites using Scribd, says Jennie Rothenberg Gritz, senior editor of TheAtlantic.com. "We wanted to be able to present them online in a way that enriched the story and we wanted people to be able to zoom in and print the document and click around," she says.
The fact that Scribd has inked so many above-board deals already is a good sign that the company is being taken seriously by publishers as a partner and not seen as simply a piracy threat