Oyster: ‘Netflix for Books’

One of the many advantages for those living in the USA is that so many innovative online services get offered there first.  Some, despite many broken promises, never make it to the UK – a classic example being Google Voice.  However, I’m also well aware that folks that live in less populous or non-English speaking places do even worse than we do.

Anyway, another example of a fantastic service that is US-only right now is the New York City-based startup, Oyster, which has been termed the ‘Netflix for Books’:

Oyster logoOyster offers unlimited access to over 100,000 books for $9.95 a month, with new titles added all the time.

We created Oyster to evolve the way people read and to create more of the special moments that only books can offer. From anywhere a mobile device can go—a bustling subway car, a quiet coffee shop, or lost at sea with a Bengal tiger—our mission is to build the best reading experience, one that is both communal and personal, anytime, anywhere.

With apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, subscribers get access to a huge library of books available for download to their devices.  Whilst the access is truly unlimited, the last 10 books are kept on your device for offline reading.

Oyster iPad

Having tried the service for a short period of time on a friend’s device, I was impressed by the range of titles available and particularly the beautiful typography used.

Oyster Typography

Whilst the range of books available is nowhere near that available on Kindle or iBooks right now, I personally found the reading experience to be more pleasurable – not least because there wasn’t the sense that I might be buying a book at significant cost that I didn’t enjoy and couldn’t pass onto others.

Oyster screenshots

Lastly, the social features are pretty cool – with the ability to add networks of fellow readers and to share and comment on friends’ activity and libraries.

Having fully embraced subscription-based music (Spotify), movies and TV (LoveFilm and Netflix), I’m definitely ready to pay a fixed monthly fee for unlimited access to books.

If Oyster was available in the UK I’d be there in an instant.  Right now, you have to reside in the US and can either download the iOS app, or else join via oysterbooks.com – there is a 30 day free trial available.  You can also buy memberships for others as gifts – that could be a great idea this holiday season!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!