‘Netflix For Books’ Oyster Closing Shop, Employees Moving To Google

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

E-Book Subscription Service Oyster To Shut Down.

Oyster, a subscription e-books service, launched two years ago “with a simple idea to build a better way to read on mobile.” When invitations to the platform first rolled out, they offered access to “more than 100,000 titles” for $9.95 a month.The Oyster e-book subscription service that launched with much fanfare in 2013 has posted a note on its blog stating it will be exiting that business over the next few months and offering refunds to subscribers who request them.

The New York City-based startup premiered a subscription service in 2013 that let members read an unlimited number of digital books from its collection for $9.95 monthly. They give no reason for why Oyster is closing, saying only that their vision for ebooks will be “best seized by taking on new opportunities.” Google appears to be part of the impetus, too.

Reader page views were soaring. “What we’re doing, Willem Van Lancker, Oyster’s co-founder and chief product officer said audaciously, “is bringing every book in the world into that system.” Alas, no longer. However, after raising more than $17 million in funding, the startup abruptly announced that it would shutter its service and take on “new opportunities to fully realize our vision for ebooks.” For at least some of the team, these new opportunities will be at Google GOOG 0.98% . Though it isn’t buying Oyster outright, Google will apparently be paying Oyster’s investors for the right to hire some of its staff — it is, Recode says, fair to call this an acquihire.

In late June, Scribd CEO Trip Adler said on the company’s website that Scribd “was facing some growing pains” and that some romance titles would no longer be available as part of its $8.99-a-month service. Thankfully, though, Re/code has more info, reporting that several members of Oyster’s team—including its three co-founders—have gone over to Google and will join its e-book store, Google Play Books.

Though Oyster launched with a challenging business model in an industry with a sole dominant player, its app managed to set itself apart from Kindle with several features. Even though I already owned a large Kindle library, I quickly became an Oyster fan because I liked its user interface a lot more (especially after it introduced Lumin, which adjusts screen color based on the time of day) and appreciated its curated book lists, essays, and large selection (I also enjoyed having an alternative to Amazon because of my aversion to their workplace ethics).

The price was comparable ($9.99 a month) as was the collection of titles (600,000 on Kindle Unlimited as compared to about 500,000 at the time on Oyster). Unfortunately, even a great user experience and team that is obviously made up of bonafide bibliophiles is not enough to guarantee success in the online book industry. Not to mention that Amazon Prime customers already had complimentary access to one book a month from the company’s Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (selection that summer: more than 500,000). Hopefully Oyster’s team will continue to do interesting things for fans of mobile reading (and give me a way to export the 17 book lists I just finished organizing on its app). In theory, Oyster’s online e-book store was partly created to strengthen its bid against Amazon, but even here the startup was fighting a losing battle, with many titles priced significantly higher there than on Jeff Bezos’ platform.

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