Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Thing 17: Hosting documents online with Scribd

Scribd is to PDF documents what YouTube is to videos, or Slideshare (which we're covering next) is to PowerPoint presentations. It's a platform for people to upload their documents, and from there it's very easy to embed them wherever you like.

What exactly is Scribd?

Scribd.com is a digital documents library, which is used both for publishing and discovering documents. If you go to the homepage you'll see people upload very attractive magazine-style documents to the site. Scribd takes any PDF and turns it into a digital document which can either be read on Scribd itself, or embedded anywhere else.

(What is embedding? Basically it means taking content from a website, and making it show up on another website. So when you go to the BBC's site and they have a YouTube video to watch there - the BBC haven't actually uploaded the video to their website themselves, in effect they've just provided a window through to YouTube itself so you can watch the video stored there.)  

Why is it useful?

Scribd is extremely useful because more people will read PDFs if they're uploaded there, than if they aren't. If you've put work into a leaflet, handout, guide, brochure, or even poster, you want as many people to see it as possible. And people just don't open PDFs - as ridiculous as it sounds, the vast majority of our users and people online generally don't want to take that extra step to open a PDF, because they don't know exactly what they're getting. With Scribd you can embed the PDF on the website, meaning it's already there and open for people to see - this will mean a HUGE increase in the level of engagement for any given document

Not only that but Scribd gets a lot of passing traffic - people go to the site and read the documents people upload. It means our documents show up in Google searches in the way a downloadable PDF will not. And Scribd 'feature' PDFs on their homepage - the Library's guide to Twitter was featured in their Education section and has now been seen by 15,000 people! 

I've embedded it here, using Scribd, so you can see how it works. (If this doesn't show up in the email, click the title of the post to go to the actual blog, where it'll be visible.) 

Activity: upload a PDF!

Trying out Scribd should only take 5 or 10 minutes. First go to scribd.com and set up an account. Then find a PDF - any one will do - press the big blue Upload button in the top right hand corner of Scribd, and turn your PDF into a digital document. You'll be asked to give it a title, some keywords, put it into a category etc. If you don't want anyone to see it, you can set it to private.

Bonus activity: embed a PDF in your blog...

An optional additional activity is to take your uploaded PDF and embed it into your blog. This may take 5 or 10 minutes depending on how comfortable you are with this sort of thing... First go back to scribd.com and locate the PDF you've already uploaded. Click on it to display it - on the menu bar along the top there's an option called < > Embed. Click this and you'll see a screen much like this one:

Leave all the settings as they are, and click on the HTML code in the top left hand corner to select it, then Copy it (Control + C). Open up a new blog post in your Blogger blog, and from the top right hand corner click the HTML button - then paste in the code from Scribd (Control + V). Then click Compose to go back to writing your blog post normally. Hit Preview or Publish to see what your embedded doc looks like.


  1. Scribd is great, but does it usually take ages to upload a PDF? Sue

  2. Hmm, I'd say no it doesn't, not in my experience - might be worth resetting the page and starting again!