Is Oyster set to become the “Netflix for ebooks”? It has the makings, even if it’s not quite there yet. Subscribers pay $9.95 a month for an unlimited access subscription to ebooks in Oyster’s catalog. Right now, the catalog of available titles is small—some 100,000 titles. If that grows, Oyster will prove to be an extremely viable method for accessing ebooks.
One appeal of Oyster is that titles are available on demand, meaning that any title is always accessible. There aren’t hold lists or problematic download procedures. All it takes to start reading is to find a title of interest and press “play.” There’s no limit to the number of titles subscribers can read simultaneously or during a set time period.
Simplicity is at the heart of Oyster. Readers browse titles by swiping across the screen. Books are searchable by author, title, keyword, or browsable by genre. When you’re looking at information about a book, a screen that lists related titles is available if you want it. At the moment, this feature isn’t as accurate as one might wish—often the similarity between titles is weak. I expect that as the catalog of titles grows—and Oyster gets an idea of the connections readers are making between books—this will improve.
Oyster’s social features allow subscribers to follow on Oyster people you already connect with via Twitter, Facebook, or email. You can see what they’re currently reading, have read, and what’s on their “titles of interest” list. It’s possible to keep information about your own reading private if you don’t want others to see it.
Currently, access to Oyster is by invite only. Sign up for an invite, and within a few days, you should be able to set up your account with a credit card.
Some library staff may be concerned about the impact that subscription services like Oyster will have on library ebook lending. Turn that around: Oyster provides an opportunity for continued strategizing about the role of the library in the community. Step up your dialogue about how library staff can best support patrons—beyond providing access to physical and digital content.
These screencasts provide an overview of the Oyster app and how it works. Topics covered:
- Getting started reading an ebook with Oyster
- Using the social features
- Searching Oyster titles and related books features
- What can librarians learn from Oyster?