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eBook Subscription Service Oyster to Close

  • Published on September 29, 2015
eBook Subscription Service Oyster to Close

Oyster’s eBook subscription service provides digital books across all major tablet and mobile operating systems, including the iPad, Nook HD, and Kindle devices. The service also provided access to eBooks from within any modern web browser. With more than 100,000 paid subscribers, Oyster was the largest subscription service for ebooks. Rather than buying books, Oyster’s business provided subscriptions to more than 1 million ebooks for a fee of just under $10 per month. In addition to subscriptions, Oyster had recently started offering eBooks for sale, and had agreements to sell books from all five major publishers.  Oyster’s business model of providing access to a large library of books for a monthly fee had the backing of significant investors, including Highland Capital Partners of Boston.

The founders of Oyster will be starting work at Google in the near future, and have announced the closing of Oyster. While an outright acquisition has not been announced, it appears that Google is looking to acquire the experience and digital publishing skills of the founders of Oyster. Google apparently isn’t interested in the 100,000 book subscribers at Oyster, as they are only bringing the talent to Google, and not the entire company and their customer base.

With this move, it looks likely that Google will be entering the subscription eBook market. It would be likely that Google Play Books will offer a subscription component in the near future, in addition to the ability to simply buy eBooks.

The publishing landscape continues to change rapidly. A few years ago publishers made most of their money from printed books, with much of their sales going through Barnes & Noble and the now defunct Borders book stores. Amazon brought book sales online, and has become the dominant player in both print and digital books, with their successful Kindle devices.  Oyster appeared well-positioned to challenge Amazon in the book space, and with their key talent going to Google, it may be Google that becomes a challenger to Amazon in the sales and distribution of books.

Digital books are a leading catalyst of the change in how books are distributed. Using tools such as Adobe InDesign, publishers have learned eBook creation techniques that make it easy for them to distribute books across multiple digital bookstores. As publishers don’t distribute many books through their own bookstores, they rely on digital book sellers. The growth of Oyster provided some hope to publishers who did not like the idea of having most digital book sales being routed through a single book seller.

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.