There’s something about ebook reading that’s still icky for some finicky readers who fancy themselves intellectuals. Maybe it’s that the ~handfeel~ of an iPad doesn’t stand up to the deckled edges of a Penguin Classics Deluxe edition, or that there’s no street cred from reading Capital in the Twenty-First Century if no one in Caffe Reggio can see the book jacket. But that doesn’t mean these readers can’t be won.
Oyster, an app that’s most often described as being “Netflix for Books,” is launching a literary magazine called The Oyster Review.
The new digital mag is the first brainchild of writer, editorial remixer and famed Internet Person Kevin Nguyen in his new role as Editorial Director for Oyster. Mr. Nguyen joined the startup a few months ago after he was poached from Amazon, where he put together the Best of the Month picks as a books editor.
When you think of book subscription services, if you think about them, you probably think of Oyster first, regardless of the fact that Scribd offers nearly the same service. This morning, Scribd finally gave us a reason they might pull ahead in the race to be the “Netflix for Books.”
Scribd has added 30,000 audio books to their book subscription service. Considering both leading book subscription companies have partnerships with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, this is the first major play to put Scribd squarely ahead of Oyster in terms of offerings.
It’s easy to forget that Oyster, dubbed “The Netflix for Books” by every writer who’s covered them, has only really been around for a year. In that time, they’ve signed on two of the Big Five publishers, built a library of 500,000 books and basically made us forget that Scribd has been trying to contend for exactly the same space.
And at the heart of Oyster’s business is their recommendation engine — a recipe for bringing readers in and hooking them on book after book. On one end of that engine is their editorial offerings — curated collections that go beyond genre and into moods or themes like “The Science of Everyday Life.” This morning, they added more “book list” features, essentially allowing everyone from users to major authors to make their own literary playlists and share them with followers and friends.
Netflix, as you may have heard, is great. A digital economy of scale allows us to pay a ridiculously low price for an ocean of streaming video that we could never hope to watch in all the years we might live, and in return we typically get frustrated by moderate price increases and the recent removal of 24. We keep our subscription through thick and thin, largely because it would be a slight inconvenience to cancel it. Other companies have caught on, and all the big players are trying their hands at movies, TV, music, video games and more. We in the media tend to call this modern incarnation of an old idea “The Netflix of blank.”
It doesn’t stop with entertainment. There are subscriptions for beauty products, clothes, groceries, contraception, razors, and pretty much everything else you could imagine. Even neo-taxis, like Uber and Lyft (which still require you to make a purchasing decision every time you use them) function mainly by banking on the idea that they can become a sort of transportation default, thus avoiding that pesky moment where people check to see if they’re really getting a deal or not. None of this is new (magazine subscriptions, cheese of the month clubs, Costco, etc.), but both digital distribution and the logistical streamlining of the 21st century are supercharging it.
The Future of the Ebook
Welcome to Freshly Minted, where we examine an overlooked deal or funding announcement in tech from the past week and tell you what you need to know and why it matters.
The deal: Apple acquired book analysis startup Booklamp for an alleged $10 to $15 million, likely to begin work building a book subscription platform, or something much bigger.
Apple is always stark and shady when it comes to their acquisitions. They’ve bought a number of under-the-radar startups, and when asked why, they offer up the same response:
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”
The Future of the Ebook
Oyster is on a roll lately. They’ve been signing up new publishers, launching new apps, getting good reviews — they’ve even gotten people to rightfully start calling them the “Netflix for Books.”
To add to all of that, as of this morning Oyster is launching their desktop app, making their books available wherever there’s a working browser tab. Though Read More
Apples and Androids
Avid readers are constantly bickering over whether or not ebooks reign supreme, or if print is still the gold standard. One little Canadian startup, however, thinks that a little of both is the solution to keep everyone happy, and they’re starting to convince the players in the publishing game that matter most.
Bitlit, an app Read More
The Future of the Ebook
In the war between iOS and Android, there are a few things we know: iPhone users are big spenders, live in more affluent neighborhoods and are vastly outnumbered by their Android counterparts. But now, we also intimate knowledge of their reading habits, which shows us more about their personalities than anything we’ve seen so far.
Oyster, the Netflix for books, released a study of their readers this morning, comparing the reading habits of iOS users with the Android users that have signed up since their recent Android release and redesign. Oyster told Betabeat that they pulled from their entire user database for the study.
Oyster is fast on its way to claiming the grandiose title of “The Netflix of Books,” contrary to what the haters said. Today, Oyster is moving into the next phase of its plan for subscription book service domination, announcing that the app will finally be available to Android users.
Opening up Oyster to Read More
Welcome to Freshly Minted, where we examine an overlooked deal or funding announcement in tech from the past week, and tell you what you need to know, and why it matters.
This week’s deal: Oyster, the Netflix for books, signed a deal with Simon & Schuster that will give Oyster subscribers access to Simon & Schuster’s entire backlist.
Oyster, a service that charges $10 a month for all-you-can-read access to a library of half a million books, just added heavyweight Simon & Schuster to their list of publishers. That makes two of the Big Five companies that dominate the publishing game, and if Oyster can sign on the remaining three publishers, they could take their place among companies like Spotify and Netflix as one of the great subscription titans of the decade.