Scribd Jumps From Publishing to Reading With Float App
Scribd today is unveiling a major new initiative called Float. While the company has historically created Web tools for users to upload and access PDFs, now it’s extending that technology to something potentially much broader: Reading.
While Float follows the debut of other reading apps like Flipboard and Pulse, and for now it’s iPhone- and Web-only, it has one important differentiator at launch: Agreements with 150 publishers to reformat their full content. Participants include the Associated Press, the Huffington Post and Time.
Somewhat surprisingly, Float is four-year-old Scribd’s first big mobile foray. “The idea of building a mobile app for docs was not compelling,” CEO Trip Adler said. An app for general-purpose reading, though, was a different story.
Adler said Float is a “huge bet” for Scribd, and that his whole company has been devoted to the new product for much of the last six months.
The way Scribd lured publishers was with the 75 million existing monthly visitors to its document site, and a promise to share advertising and subscription revenue with them, according to Adler. Plus, publishers who had been burned by the scrape-first-ask-questions-later approach of other apps were primed to be receptive to Float, Adler said.
Scribd has put considerable effort into making content readable through an interface it calls “floating text,” which automatically flows to fill the screen at a reader’s preferred font size. Users can make text larger and smaller on the iPhone screen with their thumb and pointer finger, and swipe left and right to access text like pages in a book. They can also choose between different fonts and colors, including preset styles like sunlight mode and battery-saving mode.
Float’s many reading options include a publisher index; a feed of social recommendations; a tool to save articles for offline reading (which is public by default); featured curators; and a personal reading library.
One of the ultimate goals of Float, said Adler, is to be a Netflix for written content, where users can sign up for subscriptions to get access to a broad swath of premium articles.