Bad news for bookworms who were also fans of the unlimited reading plan offered by subscription company Oyster: the service is shutting down in the coming months. Oyster was a ground-breaking company, offering “read all you want” monthly plans that started over two years ago. But it seems like a merger with Google is bringing their brand of business to a halt, though the idea of the book subscription service may carry on in the founders’ next endeavors.
Oyster and the Competition
When Oyster launched in 2012, it was revolutionary. Readers everywhere – at least those that didn’t mind reading their books from a screen – rejoiced. Only $10 a month and you could read all the available books on Oyster’s platform, including titles from the five big publishers: Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. Oyster survived by paying publishers a cut after readers mostly made their way through one of the books on their smart phone, tablet or computer. Supposedly, the service also shared data with reader habits with those publishers, helping them maximize the efficiency of their marketing data.
Oyster has never let on how much money they made while in their hey-day. But it must have been enough to get the competitive juices flowing, as Amazon followed suit and launched a competitive $10 a month subscription, available on all Kindle devices starting in July 2014. And of course, Oyster’s interface does not integrate with Kindle, which probably contributed to their decision to sell out. While Oyster was estimated to have about 100,000 subscribers, Amazon’s service is estimated to have more than 2 million.
The End of Oyster
Oyster’s founders and CEO, among other former workers, are now going to be working for Google Play and their developing bookstore. While Google has not announced their own plans to issue a book-reading subscription service, it sure looks like that’s going to be the case. Amazon and Google seem to have a consistent, healthy rivalry – Amazon released a music streaming service, so did Google. Now they have to match on the book-reading end, a corner of the market Amazon has been dominating for quite some time with their ever popular Kindle readers.
While Oyster will continue offering services to subscribers for the rest of the year, you can request a refund if you’d rather end your ties now. Only time will tell if the brains behind Oyster can help Google compete with Amazon in the publishing world, and if people will buy in over time. One thing is for sure, the Oyster team is not giving up on its dream of instant reading access from connected devices. In its blog post announcement concerning the shutdown, founders stated, “We believe more than ever that the phone will be the primary reading device globally over the next decade.” Oyster’s team is changing their name, but they aren’t changing their vision. Keep an eye on Google – the competition is sure to keep heating up between Oyster’s new home and Amazon in the coming years.