October 27, 2021

Ebook Subscription Service Oyster Passes 1 Million Titles and Adds Books From Macmillan

Oyster, one of the big three ebook subscription services (Scribd and Amazon Unlimited the other two), has just announced that they’re now providing access to more than one million ebooks.

Oyster also announced a new partnership with Macmillan. 1,000 titles to start including books from their Tor, FSG, and St. Martin’s Press imprint. These are new/catalog titles.

Oyster’s collection of ebooks includes a stream of titles from Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. In the past few months they also announced partnerships with Bloomsbury, Candlewick, New York Review Books Classics, Capstone, and Soho Press.

In November, Oyster formed an author advisory board and began publishing an online literary journal.

Direct to Oyster Blog Post/Announcement

Comment from Gary Price, Founder/Editor of infoDOCKET

For a couple of years I have been suggesting that the library community, particularly the public library community, begin to look at and pay close attention to “all you can read” ebook subscription services like Oyster, Scribd, and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, all providers of popular material, and at the least discuss their possible/potential impact on library book borrowing, collection development, budgets, etc.

In other words, do some forecasting and planning.

Sadly, but not unexpectedly, this has not happened. Some of the feedback I’ve been given and read is includes comments like “let’s wait and see”, “we will worry about it later”,  and “libraries are better.”

My question today is, when is later?

What the long term future is for these companies and likely other players that will come along is to be determined. No one knows for sure. Of course, you could have said something similar not to long ago about Netflix, Spotify, and others.

With one million titles (and growing) Oyster and their primary competitors Scribd (they continue to add new partners, recently announced availability of audiobooks, and just received an influx of funding to continue expanding).

We haven’t heard any news about Kindle Unlimited in recent weeks but Amazon.com is Amazon.com so don’t be surprised to hear something soon. Bezos and company have to be part of the conversation.

The word competition is not one many librarians like to hear. However, like it or not, in today’s world we have it and it is not going away. We might know that in many cases libraries are often “better” but I’m not sure the public always sees it this way and frankly what does better mean to them? In many cases better might mean where can I get the item NOW.

Btw, all ebooks are available at all times (no waiting lists) from the major ebook subscription services.

As I’ve said before Oyster, Scribd, and of course Amazon must market themselves to survive. They have full time staffs and money devoted to get the word out. We also know that the library community as a whole as always had marketing problems.

Final Thoughts

To be clear, my point here is to once again suggest that ebook subscription services and their possible/potential long term scenarios and impact be discussed by the library community as a whole as well as by local libraries. None of this is cause for panic and the all to often “sky is falling” and “we’re doomed” grumblings we often read.

It’s about discussion, learning, and planning. In other words, ebook subscription services are now part of the environment.

All businesses (for profit and non-profit) are always (or at least should be) looking years out attempting to be ready for the future.  The library community as a whole must do more of this on any number of issues.

I will readily acknowledge that not everyone can afford access to content services and library’s must be ready and able to provide for these people.

Without beginning a discussion NOW on the potential impact of ebook subscription services on public libraries we will once again miss the option to be prepared and ready to deal with a possible disruption to a library service that is at the core of what we have always done.  One question I’ve been asking is the time coming when we end the purchase of ebooks and simply work with a vendor like Oyster to buy subscriptions for our users?

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.

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