Unlimited Books and Audiobooks
The company announced Wednesday that it would sell e-books, allowing customers to buy titles that are not available through its all-you-can-read subscription service. The store will make popular books by authors like James Patterson, John Green and Donna Tartt accessible to Oyster users for the first time. But the move also reveals the current limits of subscription e-book services, which often have hundreds of thousands of offerings but not necessarily the ones people most want to read.
Streaming services have transformed music, film and television, but whether the model will work in publishing remains unclear. Many publishers are treading cautiously. Oyster, for example, has made deals with three of the big five publishers for its subscription service, but not with Penguin Random House or Hachette.
Eric Stromberg, Playster’s chief executive, said that the company’s e-book prices would be “competitive with the marketplace” and that Oyster would sell e-books from all five of the major publishing houses. He declined to disclose the company’s subscriber base but said the service had been growing 20 percent a month. In an effort to bolster its profile and literary credentials, Oyster also created its own literary magazine, “The Oyster Review,” last fall.
Some publishers and authors remain wary of e-book subscription services, which they worry could devalue books in consumers’ minds. And binge-reading is a far more time-consuming proposition than binge-watching.
Still, competition for subscribers has been increasing. Last summer, Amazon began Kindle Unlimited, which has more than 700,000 books and thousands of audiobooks for $10 a month. Scribd, which has more than a million e-books, has added more than 30,000 audiobooks and 10,000 comic books to its service in recent months. (Scribd has been selling e-books since 2009.) And one of the newest contenders in the crowded field, a company based in Montreal called Playster, offers music, games, TV shows, movies and e-books through its service. Playster recently struck a deal with HarperCollins to include 14,000 backlist books in its service.