TechCrunch alerts me to a new web service:
Scribd, a site for sharing documents, is coming out of private beta this morning with a fresh Angel investment of $300K on top of their original Y Combinator nest egg of $12,000. Scribd is most easily described as a text version of YouTube. It is a social network that lets you tag, share, and comment on uploaded documents (.doc, .pdf, .txt, .ppt, .xls, .ps, .lit).At first when I read this, I was like, what would I ever want that for? Sounds pretty lame. Then in dawned on me that I have been looking for a way to share .pdf and .xls files on by blog and this would be be perfect for that. Then I actually used it and found that it has some cool features. I uploaded the research paper that was the underlying source of my 50 gallons of gasoline in each PC post.
Scribd is not just a carbon copy of YouTube. They borrowed a lot of the basic design principles, but also took advantage of the written format by including flexible file formats for download and upload along with some interesting analytics tracking. Documents can be displayed and embedded as html or the under-utilized, and faster-than-a-pdf, Flash paper format. They can be downloaded as .pdf’s, .docs, .txt, and even .mp3 files. The mp3 version is created by Scribd’s text-to-speech package (powered by Nuance) that lets you listen to the text of your document in a quivering British accent (downloadable example here). People have uploaded all sorts of documents for the private beta, like this guide to dating and seduction for dummies, or this less than legal copy of Visual C++ in 21 days. Scribd also lets you “geek out” on all the analytics generated by documents you post, such as how many votes and views your piece gets, as well as geographic location and http referrer that brought the reader there.
As TechCrunch points out, the flash paper feature is pretty neat. I also dig the ability to listen to files as .mp3 files (and this paper totally cracked me up, and listening to it with the British accent is even funnier). Converting to an .mp3 file as an addtional benefit as it tells you how long it would take to listen to it. Similar to how NerdShit tells you the amount of time it would take to read an article. The ability to download a .pdf as a .doc or .txt file is also pretty cool.