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Scribd is changing how its readers find new books

Ebook rental service will feature guest-curated book collections

Scribd wants to be to bibliophiles what Netflix is to couch potatoes. The ebook subscription service is rolling out a new browsing experience, which uses human curation and an algorithm-driven recommendation engine to facilitate user discovery.

While the platform already allows readers to peruse books based on categories like genre and popularity, Scribd will provide access to a variety of collections unique to the service. These range from personalized selections derived from a customer's recent history to those hand-picked by the editorial staff and guest authors. In a recent call with The Verge, co-founder Jared Friedman explained Scribd is powered by an extensive tagging system similar to that used by Netflix. The service also classifies books based on more unusual categories. "We look at the writing style. Is it fast-paced? Is it dialogue-intensive? Is it written in the first person?"

"This is just the beginning of more to come."

Friedman says that the company believes that this could create "a different way of reading," noting that over half the books read on Scribd were "discovered serendipitously." The digital library is looking to invest more heavily in its editorial team, according to Friedman who later stated in a press release, "This is just the beginning of more to come."

The redesign is only the most recent change for what began as a document-sharing hub. In addition to its original functions, Scribd offers access to more than 500,000 books for $8.99 a month, a cheaper but less expansive alternative to Amazon's $9.99 Kindle Unlimited, which includes over 600,000 titles. The update is already available on the Scribd website and will be integrated with its mobile apps over the next few weeks.