Ebook subscription startup Oyster is taking a pretty big risk today.
The company, often called a “Netflix for ebooks,” finally won over the last two of the “big 5” publishers: Penguin Random House and Hachette. But in the process, the company will begin charging for some books individually.
In Oyster’s terms, it’s launching an “ebook store,” where subscribers and non-subscribers alike can purchase popular titles. Oyster founder Eric Stromberg called the move “a natural progression of the businesses.”
The release certainly broadens Oyster’s offering — that’s good. But because the new store is mixed right in with Oyster’s “unlimited” ebook subscription offering, it feels a little weird. What if Netflix did such a thing? I asked Stromberg:
I agree that it’s important — how we put together that experience, so readers understand what they get with a subscription. Having it all in one place creates some very interesting opportunities.
Nothing is changing about the subscription offering. We’re focused to make that as great as possible.
Over the past few months we’ve worked on creating a seamless experience for our customers. When you open the app, you will see some books are available for subscription and some are available for purchase.
I also asked Stromberg if Oyster ever considered just launching a separate app:
For us, very early on, we decided we wanted it all to be in one place. When it’s all in one place, it does create very nice discovery opportunities.
It’s really been on our radar for a really long time … we really decided a few months ago to launch this offering. We called up our publisher partners … and we were thrilled by the response.
However you interpret the move, it’s clear that Oyster carefully considered how it would on-board existing subscribers to this mixed subscription-store model. Oyster makes it easy to filter out books you have to buy and offers a pretty convincing argument for the move inside the updated app.
Many of you want to read all of your books on Oyster, not just those available in subscription. That’s why we’ve added tons of new books, available on the Oyster website. The books you’ve purchased there can be read here, and they’re yours for life.
Here’s a closer look at the updated service, live now on iOS and Android.
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