September 22, 2014

eBook Subscription Services: Oyster Launches App For Android

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Today, Oyster, the all-you can read, no-wait for any title, ebook subscription service ($9.95/month) released their app for Android devices. 

Oyster first launched first as a private beta in September 2013 and became available to all users on October 16, 2013. 

However, until now Oyster was only available to iOS users.

From Today’s Announcement:

Over the past few months, we’ve learned quite a bit about our members’ reading habits: they use Oyster for roughly 45 minutes a day, most of all on Sunday, and together read millions of pages on Oyster every day (with peaks at lunch time and late evening).

Because members are spending so much time in the reader, we’ve been working hard to make it even easier on the eyes.

So, what’s new? Typography, layouts, a refreshed color palette, and small refinements throughout. Our four themes, Standard, Nomad, Herald, and Crosby have all gotten a face-lift and are joined by the brand new Wythe, which features a high contrast, news text typeface well-suited for outdoor and beach reading.

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We’ve also added editor’s notes to hundreds of our top titles so you can get short, thoughtful reviews of the books we love (or don’t). Between 100 and 300 characters, these notes are there to help you make a choice about your next book as quickly as possible. This all comes from our growing editorial team–from Huffington Post, The New Yorker, NPR, The Paris Review, Poets & Writers, and more.

And there’s one more thing… These features are all rolling out today for iOS, too!

Comment

For over years I’ve been talking/writing about e-book subscription services and asking the library community to consider what they might mean for library services in the future. I’ve not been alone in this effort.

Sadly, the library community, especially the public library community (as a whole), has done little to discuss how Oyster, Scribd, and other ebook subscription services can or might effect libraries in the future.

Discussions to this point could have assisted the community be ahead of the curve instead of the all to common reacting after the fact.

No one can predict what subscription services can or will mean to the public library in terms of circulation, collection development, budgets, etc. but the point all along has been to discuss and plan BEFORE these services potentially becoming the way many people, including many current library users, access ebook content.

It’s true that not everybody will want to pay or have the means to pay for a subscription service and we need to also discuss this.  However, we’ve pointed out that it’s likely ad-supported services will also make more and more content free if users are willing to view/listen/watch to some advertising.

Need an example? Spotify, the cloud-based music service offers their complete collection containing more than 13 million music tracks is now 100% free if accessed on a desktop/laptop or tablet device and if the user is willing to listen to a few brief ads each hour.

Also, look for services to work together and offer a package of digital content for one price. We might see something like Hulu and Netflix for video, Spotify for music, and Scribd or Oyster for ebooks. Niche services for specific types of content might also be available in a package. For example, Qello, for concert video and movies. 

Oyster, Scribd, and other subscription services not only make all content available at all time, something most library ebook services don’t offer but the companies providing these services are also good (or should be) at marketing and getting the word out. Their business depends on it.

As we all know, marketing/getting the word out is something that study after study shows libraries could do MUCH better. This is of course nothing new.

It’s not only about planning for specific services but also about increasing mindshare about the relevance of the 21st Century library to the library and non-library users (those who vote). Lack of relevance can leak to a lack of importance and that can lead to budget cuts or worse.

Like it or not today’s library has competition not only for actual service(s)/content but also for mindshare.

No, it’s NOT too late to get the discussions going but the time is today not tomorrow. With all of the effort and money being put into library access to ebooks I think that having a plan for the short and long term is essential.

One Final Thought

At this moment Oyster and Scribd each offer about 500,000 titles. Simply saying these services don’t offer “a lot of content” is no longer an excuse. If it is, fine, but do realize that the number of titles they are making available is growing fast.

Finally, I want to be clear that the point I am attempting to make is about the importance of discussion and planning for the future and not about panic. This is not only true for ebook subscription services but for other types of content and resources.

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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.