In recent years, with the advent of streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix, it seemed that the way we received content had changed irrevocably and yet book publishing appeared to be bound to many of the same processes it has followed since the first days of print publishing.
It’s quite refreshing then, to see a service such as Oyster appear on the market. It is a streaming service with a strong sense of being a digital lending library, which many commentators have come to dub the ‘Netflix of books’. Similar to Netflix, it offers a trial period (albeit a shorter one at two weeks) before asking you to pay a monthly subscription fee.
While the concept is in no way revolutionary, Oyster certainly executes it to a very high standard; the selection of titles is extensive, the interface is both attractive and easy to navigate and a host of categories, some original, some more unconventional, offer a pleasant browsing experience that will serve to satisfy anyone who enjoys perusing the shelves of their local bookshop on a lazy afternoon.
Further convenience is provided thanks to the app being available for “Apple iOS, Android, Nook HD and Kindle Fire, as well as the web” so that you don’t lose the portability of a physical book when using Oyster.
All in all, the app provides an excellent service, especially for the most voracious of readers, allowing you to begin a book and discard it if it doesn’t suit you, at no extra cost. In fact much of the time you will find yourself scrolling through the different categories or the lists of suggested reads that Oyster pairs with every title and find yourself with even more material to read than when you first set out.
However, what’s more pressing is the question as to how the emergence of Oyster affects the publishing industry, particularly in terms of revenue towards both publishers and authors, and as to whether Oyster even changes the game at all. According to their website Oyster are already partnered with larger companies such as HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Disney, Grove Atlantic and National Geographic to name a few.
Yet only with time can we see the extent of its success and just how it will hold up against such things as traditional publishing services, Amazon and new ventures from companies such as Facebook.
Will Oyster stand to reinvigorate the publishing industry as a whole or could it cause more damage than good, is also something which can only be known through hindsight.
On a lighter note, will Oyster usher in a practice of binge reading much the same way Netflix has introduced us to binge watching TV shows? That, if you might pardon the cliché, would definitely be one for the books.
Much on this remains to be said, but for the time being if anything, I can say that Oyster has the positive effect in encouraging more people to read; it makes browsing for books online all the more pleasurable and helps to spread its own missive that “a well-read life is a better-lived life”.