Scribd’s lightweight alternative to PDF (Portable Document Format) files to display rigidly formatted documents in browsers.
Besides Adobe Acrobat (.pdf files), iPaper can also convert Adobe PostScript
(.ps), Microsoft Word (.doc, .docx),
Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps, .pptx), Microsoft Excel (.xls, .xlsx), OpenOffice
Text Document (.odt, .sxw), OpenOffice Presentation Document
(.odp, .sxi), OpenOffice Spreadsheet (.ods, .sxc), all OpenDocument formats, plain text (.txt), RTF (Rich Text Format) (.rtf) to iPaper format.
iPaper does not directly convert HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) to a rigid, browser-independent format, guaranteed to look identical on
all browsers. To get that effect, you would have to convert HTML ⇒ PDF ⇒ iPaper.
You can embed iPaper documents on your own web pages. The documents themselves are hosted free on
Scribd’s website. You can’t serve them directly from your own server, though you may serve the
original raw text of your documents from your own server.
Everything is free — tools, hosting…
You can scale the size of the displayed documuments, rendered inline.
iPaper documents serve much faster than PDF, because the browser does not need to install or load a special
iPaper viewer and since it can start displaying the document even before it is fully loaded.
iPaper puts no load on your server since Scribd serves the documents for you, free of charge.
Your documents are professionally backed up.
The documents served are automatically the latest iPaper format version and are automatically viewed with
the latest software (though not necessarily the latest Flash). Scribd can reconvert masters automatically to
iPaper at any time to correct bugs or switch to new improved formats. Most other viewers are plagued with
mismatched document and viewer versions. This is a side effect of Scribd insisting on serving the iPaper
You don’t even need your own website. You can send people direct to Scribd’s website to view
You can optionally share documents, adding them to Scribd’s public index of
You can mark documents private. This keeps them out of indexes and search
engines. You have a secret URL (Uniform Resource Locator) to the document, which you can share with select others or the public if you
choose. Private does not restrict links to being embedded only on your website.
Read very carefully what QuickSwitch does before using it. I doubt
many webmasters, certainly not corporate ones, would consider using such a drastic tool. They want you to use
QuickSwitch which logs into your website via FTP (File Transfer Protocol), using your secret password, and modifies all your HTML
documents! Arrgh! They expect you to do this without so much as a manual trial run on a single document
If you convert a document to iPaper, it becomes viewable-only. For example, an iPaper version of a
spreadsheet will not calculate anything. You cannot edit the iPaper version of a text file. Granted, if the
user clicks the Scribd logo, then clicks download, then he can download the
original. However only the cognoscenti would ever know to use this Easter egg. There should be a download
button the frame. Documents displayed inline don’t have one. Documents displayed embedded in Scribd web
The user must be online to the Internet to view iPaper documents.
There is no simple step-by-step documentation on what do to create and embed a single document on your
website. They have one of the nicest looking websites on the net with an excellent overview, and some detailed
API (Application Programming Interface) specs, but nothing in between, at least not obviously available.
The embedded links are extremely verbose and not very meaningful to humans. This makes them harder to
proofread than ordinary links. You cannot edit them manually. You must generate new HTML to embed. Scribd could
simpliy the code you need to embed drastically by using a one-line iframe link and
by having the Scribd server generate all that <object gobbledegook dynamically.
A further advantage is such iframe embedded code would always be freshly generated
and could not go obsolete.
In general, iPaper documents don’t automatically update when the original document is changed.
Unlike PDF, Google does not understand how to spider iPaper documents. However, you may serve the raw text
of your documents from your own server to ensure Google spiders the contents and ascribes them to you, not
The generated code does not pass HTML Validator inspection. Even the one
sample shown contains over a dozen minor errors, and further, it does not align the caption properly.
I frequently get Unable to locate document: streaming error 2048. I have figured out what
causes this. It does not always happen.
Under the Hood
When you register, for free, you choose an account name and password. They give you three bits of gibberish to
use: an api key, api secret, and publisher-id to activate your use of iPaper. You can optionally choose to embed
Google ads in your iPaper documents and they will send you revenue cheques.
There are several different ways to embed references to iPaper documents on your webpages. Basically they use
Scribd server. It can start displaying the document even before it is fully loaded. The beauty of this odd
approach is speed.
When you want to render the document inline, the way an Applet would, the HTML you need to embed
balloons astoundingly. Here is what you might embed on your web page to display a sample iPaper document hosted on
the Scribd server. It could be embedded on any webpage, not just one on the author’s website.
The resulting display looks like this.
or you can link to it, rather than embed the image on the page: