Oyster: A Spotify For Books

For a monthly fee, the literary service offers a wide range of titles and help you discover new ones. Peter Thiel's Founders Fund helped kick in $3 million.

Oyster, a fledgling mobile service for Spotify-style on-demand books, has raised $3 million in funding led by Founders Fund.

Oyster, which is still a work in progress, will let users of its mobile app access, discover, and read an ever-growing range of titles and genres, all on your smartphone and all for a flat monthly fee, which it hasn't yet disclosed.

In a blog post, the founders emphasize they'll focus a lot of their attention on the discovery aspect of Oyster to help readers finding new titles to read by considering all your existing sources of book recommendations: your friends, TV shows, role models, and algorithms.

"When everyone has access to the same library, you can share and curate with confidence," they write. "Friends can read the same book in one-click, without having to make an additional purchase or hunt for a link to buy it."

There are a handful of subscription-based models floating around, but their focus is usually on a niche selection of titles. Yesterday, Harper Collins announced it will start offering subscription-based business and leadership titles through e-learning company Skillsoft's on-demand training library. The TED Books app charges $14.99 for a three-month, six-mini-books plan that delivers short titles written by its conference speakers.

But because so much of Oyster's mission is about helping its users discover new titles, it's naturally looking to offer as wide a range of genres, publishers, and authors as possible. That means its closest existing competition lies in Amazon's Kindle Lending Library, which lets $79-per-year Amazon Prime members rent just one book per month, but from a large selection of 100,000 titles.

(Ed note: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the Founders Funds' investment role. It also incorrectly referred to the firm as "Peter Thiel's Founders Fund." The post has been updated for clarification.)

[Image: Flickr user University of St. Andrews]

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  • Guest

    "access, discover, and read an ever-growing range of titles and genres"; "its closest existing competition lies in Amazon's Kindle Lending Library . . . a large selection of 100,000 titles"; etc. is this journalism or a mish-mash of a couple of press releases? It's not intuitive to me that there's an important distinction between "accessing" books and reading them; that sounds like publicist-mangled language to me. And it's not intuitive that a selection of 100,000 digital titles is a large one. Or that they're not all the sort of books sold in airport bookstores. Is it really so difficult to translate press releases into "news" without getting light-headed from effervescent, content-free prose?