Document hosting and sharing site Scribd is venturing into the mobile space in order to give its publishers an opportunity to attract more readers. With a new mobile reader application called Float, Scribd aggregates content from news sites, magazines, blogs, and Scribd.com as well as from your social networks like Facebook and Twitter. You can also save items you find online to read later in Float, with the use of a specialized browser bookmarklet.
But what’s most unique about this app is the way it reformats the text for the small screen. The “floating text” reading experience, which gives the app its name, reflows text originally formatted for the Web for better reading on mobile devices.
“Floating” Text Makes the Web Easy to Read on Mobile
This floating text experience has its roots in the technology Scribd introduced last year, when it began offering a way to convert Adobe PDF documents into HTML5. At the time, the company learned a lot about how to transform and rearrange text from one format and one type of interface to another.
In the new native iPhone app called Float, the team leveraged that expertise so that you can now zoom in on text using pinch gestures, and then see that text automatically reflowed for that particular zoom level. You can also scroll left or right in the app, as you would with a book or magazine.
The content in Float comes from over 150 websites, including The Associated Press, Fortune, CNET, HuffingtonPost, Engadget, Entertainment Weekly and People, but it also comes from the information your friends are sharing on social sites like Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Scribd. And you can share content from the app back to those same sites, too.
A special browser bookmarklet lets you save items you find online for later reading on Float.com or within the iPhone app.
A Unique Mobile Reading Experience
Does the idea of yet another “social reading” app leave you dry? This is, after all, a crowded space – filled with apps like Pulse and Flipboard and others like them. But Scribd says its key differentiating factor is its focus on the reading experience, particularly the small screens of smartphones. In addition to the reformatted text, Float offers an Instagram-like “reading styles” option which lets you choose between different formats that work better for different users, like e-ink, high contrast as well as fun ones like “Gutenberg,” because, well, just because.
In the future, Scribd will look at different business models to aid its publishers – for example, offering them the opportunity to insert ads into the articles in a better format than is typically possible on mobile. It will also attempt to bring in premium publishers offering subscriptions, and is now in talks with newspapers interested in exploring that option.
At launch, Float is available for the iPhone and Web only, but an iPad app and Android version will launch this fall. You can give Float a try for yourself, here.