Publication Date

August 25, 2009

ScribdIn today’s digital age, online social networks—such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to name just a few—pave the way for old friends to reconnect or even new job opportunities to arise. Other sites like YouTube and Flickr allow users to upload and share their digital creations, videos, and photographs.

Similarly, there are various online venues for people to publish their writings, such as blogs; however, there is no easy way to publish writings to an expansive online audience. Scribd, a new “social publishing company,” aims to marry social networking with self-publishing.

Known as the YouTube for Writers, the creators believe that everyone is a writer and a publisher. The web site explains, “Scribd began with a simple observation — that the desire for self-expression through the written word is as old as humanity itself.”

Combining elements from popular networking sites as those listed above, Scribd allows writers to upload and share their writings with the public. In many ways, the site democratizes publishing and “liberates written word.”

Although Scribd offers open publishing options for the general public, the site also includes documents from several university presses. These publishers are listed below with links to sample works taken from each:

Harvard University Press

The MIT Press

NYU Press

For those interested in perusing Scribd documents outside of university presses, the site offers two primary means of exploration: by categories and by popular tags. These means of exploration are much like those found on Flickr, where users can similarly search for photographs by categories and popular tags.

Scribd categories not only include books, but also magazines and newspapers, recipes and menus, resumes and c.v.’s, and much more. Tags cover nearly every imaginable topic—history, family, love, humor, law, physics, psychology, technology, the list goes on. Furthermore, users can explore groups that thematically link documents, such as U.S. History Documents that includes books, educational worksheets, and research papers.

So how exactly does Scribd work? The site operates under iPaper, a program that uses Adobe Flash so that documents appear the same across different computers. Users wanting to publish their works on Scribd can upload most any format using iPaper, including Word, PowerPoint, PDF, OpenOffice, and PostScript.

One final note: There has been discussion of unethical and illegal uploading on the site, which ties into the larger discussion of online book pirating and general copyright issues. While Trip Adler, chief executive of Scribd, believes that these reproductions are fractional amidst the other uploads, he assures that the site works diligently and efficiently to remove any reproductions upon their upload. Furthermore, the site functions much like Amazon in that users can access online reproductions of their favorite book after purchasing it, as they would in a bookstore. More information can be found in the New York Times article, Print Books Are Target of Pirates on the Web.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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