December 18, 2014

Ebook Subscription Services: Oyster Now Offers Access to More than 500,000 Titles

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We’ve been talking about ebook subscription service (aka Netflix-like/Spotify-like services) and what they might mean for libraries, especially public libraries, for close to two years.

Sadly, the library community, as a whole, has not spent a lot of energy (any?) in talking about how these service might impact library ebook usage, mindshare, etc. Perhaps they’ll have no impact but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthwhile exercise to monitor and discuss prior to any sort of impact vs. having to be reactive. We should begin today.

All to often the library community rushes to react vs. being ahead of the curve.

For those of you have been following our coverage, today Oyster Books (a major player in this space) announced their collection of ebooks now provides access to more than 500,000 titles for $9.95/month. Unlike library ebooks that might not be available and users might need to wait for a copy, all Oyster titles are available at all times. In other words, a user never needs to wait to begin reviewing/reading a book.

What about growth in the number of titles available to subscribers?

Oyster formally launched on September 5, 2013 with 100,000 titles. Our launch day post also looks at the need for the library community to be aware of these services and discuss potential impact.

Oyster’s launch also saw a number of very positive reviews of the service itself and their reading app that continues to only be available for iOS. Look for this to change.

From Today’s Blog Post from Oyster:

Since then [launch day], we’ve grown our library by leaps and bounds—over 500,000 titles from more than 1,600 publishers. We reached half a million books over the past few months by signing lots of new publishers and expanding our relationships with existing partners. And we should mention that the number of pages read on Oyster is rather remarkable—over 100 million, and more pages read every second of the day (8 pages per second, in case you were curious).

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So, what’s new to the library? For starters, we’ve nearly doubled the number of New York Times best sellers on our service. We’ve also added new books from HarperCollins—over 11,000 in all, including more than 1,000 titles that are coming to subscription for the very first time.

Also worth noting, in February Oyster added 100 titles from Disney at the same time the company launched a new section of the site focused on ebooks for children.

Browse the Oyster Collection

Who are other major players in this space?

  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. Available as part of an Amazon.com Prime subscription. Limited to 1 title per month. Launched in November 2011 with approx. 5000 titles. Now, over 500,000 titles. All titles available at all times.

Browse the Complete Scribd Collection

A Few Final Points

Along with offering quality books from a variety of publishers in an aesthetically pleasing and easy to use environment these services must do a great job of marketing and promoting their services to the masses. It’s essential. Without it the companies will cease to exist. I think many would agree that overall library marketing both locally and nationally needs a lot of work.

Also, while it’s true that libraries about providing access to all users we’re continually seeing more content going free for ALL users. Two examples:

  • Spotify is now 100% free for those who access on a laptop, desktop, or tablet. Unlimited access to the complete collection of tracks. Users must listen to a few commercials each hour.
  • Hulu recently announced that this summer they’ll release a mobile app providing free access to limited content that is now only available for subscribers. Hulu also announced they now have more than six million subscribers.

Of course, as is the case in many areas, Amazon’s reach, Kindle usage, and the company’s ability to get content also has to be watched closely with ebook subscriptions beyond their already expanding service. Right now, an Amazon Prime subscription also includes access to free video content and about two weeks ago the company announced that for the first time HBO has agreed to make some of their programs available via a third-party streaming service. It’s an exclusive multi-year deal.

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Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.