Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Netflix Model for Books is Here: Oyster Books

Oyster Books
A few months back, I predicted the Netflix model as the future of publishing. In case you missed it, the idea is to create a service where subscribers pay a monthly fee, and have unlimited access to a library of books rather than paying for individual books. Well, that proposed model is now a reality in the form of Oyster Books‎, a new service that offers access to a library of over 100,000 books for $9.95.

Oyster's library is based on books from five hundreds of publishers, including HarperCollins and Smashwords. It's available only for Apple devices, which considerably limits its subscriber base. Apparently, they are working on an Android version, though. It’s also already confirmed my suspicions that the Netflix model is the future of publishing. Check out how this description from one of the services' founders matches my arguments in favor of the model:
Stromberg believes that “by not pushing a buy transaction on readers,” consumers are more likely to try a new book. “We think we can change habits and get people to read more,” he said, emphasizing that people have their smartphones with them all the time and “can take out their phones and read when they have a few minutes.” He added, “People who use the app are saying it’s bringing them back to books.” - Via Publishers Weekly 
Oyster’s main goal is to make the process of finding and reading books much easier than it has been in the past. “You don’t have to decide, do I want to spend $12.99 on this single book?” explains Van Lancker. “Rather, you can just tap and get into it.” The founders figure that by removing the purchasing process, people will spend less time hemming and hawing over buying a book and more time actually reading it, which hopefully will lead to more revenue for the publishers, authors and Oyster - Via Wired
I foresee more competing services coming soon, and indie authors reaping the lion's share of the benefits. This model has more benefits to self-published authors than traditional publishers, anyway. Considering traditional publishers are resisting dropping prices on their eBooks overall, it'll take a lot to get them behind taking subscription fees instead of selling individual books.

Indie authors are already jumping at this opportunity, although some are skeptical of the business model. In my original post, I suggested a percentage of the monthly earnings for the collective service for every book borrow. Oyster's terms will pay sixty percent of the list price for every ten percent of the book being read. That's an amazingly good deal for authors (essentially, getting paid every time someone reads the equivalent of the sample chapters), but some are wondering if it's a sustainable amount considering earnings. We'll see. But I'm optimistic. So is Mark Coker of Smashwords.

What do you think of Oyster? Would you use Oyster?

Note: Thanks to Reid Kemper for the tip

UPDATE: Thanks to Ashley at Oyster to correcting me on some of the details

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