Oyster, a self-proclaimed ‘Netflix for ebooks’, has launched its service by invitation-only offering unlimited access to ebooks for a flat monthly fee.
The service is currently available on iPhone and iPod Touch, and provides US-based users with unlimited access to a library of over 100,000 books at a cost of $9.95 per month.
The application allows categorical browsing, genre and title search. Users can customise the font size and style, just as with other ebook apps.
Amazon Kindle Owners’ Lending Library provides a similar type of service, but a criticism being leveled at that app is that the library of over 400,000 books consists mostly of self-published or unheard-of books.
Oyster’s library of 100,000 copyrighted ebooks includes those from publisher HarperCollins, and as such contains books that many people have heard of, according to GigaOM’s Laura Hazard Owen, who is testing the service.
The app also provides offline reading capability.
On the Oyster website, the founders say their focus is simply providing books on a mobile device: “We’ve heard a common theme from both avid and casual readers – they love reading on smartphones. Phones are with them everywhere they go and are the perfect reading device for those in-between moments in their lives.”
The site also proclaims that the service provides access to an ‘ever-growing collection of books’, but does not specify from which publishers this growth will come.
It remains to be seen whether the company will be able to forge new deals with any of the other major publishers. However, having HarperCollins on board points to the possibility that the company has come up with some kind of workable pricing model for compensating content owners and authors.