So far 2013 has been a big year for readers and technology. We’ve seen startups like Memphis’ ScrewPulp offering a new kind of self publishing platform. We saw Amazon’s Jeff Bezos add the digital download to traditional books, and now it seems everybody is talking about Oyster.
E-Book reading is a huge growing market. According to a recent report from the Washington Post, e-book sales in the US topped $3 billion dollars this year. That, according to TechCrunch, accounted for a 44% increase in e-book sales. The UK saw a whopping 134% increase from 2011 to 2012.
As more and more people switch to table devices or add a table device to their smart devices, e-books are becoming more and more popular. Amazon, iTunes, and others have made finding and reading books so easy that you don’t even have to set foot in a library or bookstore.
Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown, and Willem Van Lancker are preparing to disrupt the e-book market again by offering a Netflix style “book renting” platform. Their startup, Oyster, lets the user download/rent unlimited e-books for $9.99 a month.
Oyster already has over 100,000 titles in their library and has scored partnerships with some big publishers in the world including Harper Collins, Houghton Mifflin, Worman, Rosetta Books and more.
In addition to its first to market rental platform for books, Oyster has also deployed a social layer on top of their reading platform so that users can share and stay updated with their friends on what they are reading.
With most e-book downloads ranging from $9.99 to $14.99 for one book, any one who reads should check out Oyster and get on their waiting list.
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So, what do the authors of these books get out of this?
There’s been a lot of “Netflix for books” hype in the past few months, certainly. I get the renting aspect, but one of the major strengths of Netflix is the recommendation engine. Will Oyster’s be good enough to recommend books based on themes, writing style, and tone? Or if I press “like” on Dracula will it then recommend Twilight?
The recommendation and book discovery question is still looming, and computer algorithms may not be the answer. Of course I’m not all questions and no answers – I think it’s more about direct relationship building between authors and readers, since social media now allows for that in a very targeted way. My team and I started Describli as more of a “dating for books” than a Netflix for books.