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Scribd gets social with new interface

August 9, 2009 |  9:01 pm
Jared Friedman Trip Alder of Scribd
Scribd founders Jared Friedman, left, and Trip Adler. Credit: Scribd.

Scribd, the self-publishing website for authors, plans to relaunch on Monday with a new interface designed to turn it into "the world's largest book club."

The site's home page will feature live updates from other subscribers in the network, a virtual bookshelf showing what people are reading and a five-star rating system for reviews. Similar to Twitter, readers will be able to subscribe to other members' status feeds or search for other authors with similar literary interests.

Founded by Jared Friedman and Trip Adler, Scribd says it gets 40 million unique visitors a month. But lately, the site's traffic has taken a nosedive, wrote TechCrunch. Adler claims the 45% dip is related to a summer lull.

Whatever the reason, Scribd thinks it has a remedy to get visitors to come more often and stay longer, said Tammy Nam, the San Francisco start-up's vice president of content. Right now, most are spending just a few minutes at the site, either to upload their work or to look for a specific document, then moving on.

"We want people not only to share what they've written, but also to hang out and discover new content," Nam said. "We want to create the world's largest book club."

With mammoth players such as Facebook and MySpace becoming overcrowded (or bombarded by hackers), smaller social networks have sprouted like spring clover, carpeting the Web with specialty networks dedicated to ethnic groups or hobbies. Scribd says it will offer visitors to its site ways to slice and dice their topics even more thinly by genre.

What do social networks have to do with books? The traditional model for book writing is to lock yourself up alone in a room and emerge when you have a transcript ready. Maybe an editor or friend reads it and gives you feedback. With the Web, however, the work can become "alive," Nam said.

"The written word is no longer static," she said. "People want others to participate in the process of creating their works. We have authors who tell us that readers give them feedback about grammar or plotlines. So their works constantly change."

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.

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