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Oyster, The “Spotify For Books,” Is Taking On Amazon With E-Book Sales

Known for its unlimited e-book subscription service, Oyster is wading into the crowded e-book market against Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Oyster, The “Spotify For Books,” Is Taking On Amazon With E-Book Sales
[Photo: via Oyster]

Oyster, which has carved out its own subscription niche in the e-book market since it launched with 100,000 books in 2013, today offers subscribers a library of more than one million books, including the Harry Potter series. On Wednesday, Oyster announced it is heading into the general e-book sales market. This pits it against the e-book titans Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple.

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Oyster is not abandoning its $10-per-month subscription service, through which Android, iOS, and Kindle Fire users can rent as many books as they like. But now Oyster will also be able to sell the newer, more in-demand books that publishers choose not to make available to Oyster subscribers. Oyster recently persuaded Macmillan to allow 1,000 of its backlist books into Oyster’s subscription library, making it the third of the Big Five publishers to offer titles through the e-book service. But “third” and “backlist” are the key words here: Publishers still hold back new books, and the other two Big Five publishers, Penguin Random House and Hachette, continue to keep their books out of Oyster’s subscription library. Oyster’s move today into e-book sales will help plug that gap in its library, because newer titles and books from all of the Big Five publishers will be up for purchase, Oyster CEO Eric Stromberg tells TechCrunch.

Like streaming music’s chilling effect on studios, publishers have been very wary of subscription services, says The New York Times, because they could devalue books in consumers’ minds. This is exactly what Taylor Swift said about Spotify–that it devalues artists and their work–when she ditched Spotify last fall. Swift is now offering her music through Tidal, a higher-end streaming service owned by musician Jay Z and which claims to offer better artist compensation. But Oyster CEO Stromberg hopes that as the e-book market moves more toward agency pricing (where publishers set prices, not consumers), booksellers can reduce Amazon’s price-cutting advantage, Stromberg tells TechCrunch.

[via The New York Times]

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