Media

Scribd's books and magazines get rich links, thanks to Apture

Apture, a startup trying to improve online reading with a smooth way to explore extra content, is rolling out what chief executive Tristan Harris called the company’s biggest implementation yet: Apture’s technology will soon work on the millions of documents shared on Scribd.

Harris demonstrated the partnership to me on a couple of sample documents, and it works pretty similarly to Apture’s integration with news sites like The New York Times and the Financial Times, as well as VentureBeat. When users highlight a word or phrase, a box appears above the selected text, offering an opportunity to learn more. If users click on the box, Apture opens a small window with Web content from sites like Wikipedia, YouTube, and Flickr — for example a person’s Twitter account, or a Wikipedia article explaining a technical term. And users can run an Apture search on any of the terms in the new window, allowing them to really chase down a topic by opening window after window.

The difference here, of course, is that Scribd doesn’t host traditional Web content — it’s a site where users can share (and sell) books, magazines, and other documents. This is written content that normally wouldn’t have any links to the online world at all. The new partnership is the online equivalent of opening a book and finding that you can watch videos or read articles related to anything inside.

The news follows Scribd’s announcement earlier this year that it’s switching its document viewer from Adobe’s Flash technology to HTML5, so the content can become more interactive, as well as accessible to search engines.

As an example of how Apture might change the reading experience, the company worked closely with author Kemble Scott to create a special electronic version of his novel The Sower. Scott, who has already been a hit on Scribd and elsewhere, found (and in some cases, rewrote) terms that were particularly enriched with an Apture search, and he highlighted them in yellow, essentially creating a reader’s guide in the text pointing to supplemental content.

Plus, of course, the partnership brings Apture to a new audience — Scribd’s 55 million monthly visitors. Scribd, meanwhile, has an opportunity to keep users reading its documents. Apture says that after its technology is activated, on average visitors stay on a webpage for two to three times longer.

For now, the Apture integration only works on the Scribd website, not on its mobile document reader or on documents embedded on other sites.

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