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Oyster: A Netflix-like Service for Books

by on September 09, 2013
in Phones and Mobile, News, Mobile Apps, iPhone/iPad Apps, Tablets & eReaders, Blog :: 4 comments

Oyster appMy old high school English teacher used to sneer at television and movies. Both are entertaining, of course, but neither quite challenges the imagination quite like a good book. And unlike movies, books have been around for hundreds of years, giving us a look into our own collective past.

Of course, online there are plenty of sites that offer unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows, but similar services for books are few and far between. That’s why I’m excited about Oyster, a new service that bills itself as a Netflix for books.

The numbers behinds Oyster are compelling. For $9.95 a month – less than what you’d pay for the average e-book – you get access to Oyster’s library of over 100,000 titles. The app offers your choice of typography and a social element to help you discover new books and like-minded readers.

Oyster does a good job at maintaining a diverse selection of books. You get classics like Brave New World and Lord of the Rings, of course, but you also get plenty of modern and non-fiction books as well. Wheat Belly, Fast Food Nation, Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance, Water for Elephants, Life of Pi are all waiting to be read at your convenience.

For now, the service is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch users only, though we imagine support for Android (read: Kindle) will be forthcoming in due time. To learn more or to request an invite to Oyster, check out the company’s website.

Editor's Note: After having tried the service for a few days, here are my impressions. You won't find the latest New York Times sellers or even many of the authors, but the service's small library offers plenty of titles from well-known scribes, including authors of young adult fiction. I was happy to see books from the Lemony Snicket, Ramona and Curious George series, among those authored by  Michael Crichton, J.R.R. Tolkein and Debbie Macomber.

The Oyster app is still a work in progress. The library is easy to navigate, broken down into genres, though relatively few given the library size, and each title has a listing of related books to help you explore. The text on the virtual page is clean and there are a number of font styles and backgrounds to choose from, including night reading mode (white text on black). Font size and brightness can be adjusted just for the app as well. Oddly, there are no bookmarks. So if you're readying a book and want to go back to check a fact or scene, there's no easy way to find your place again. Syncing your progress on a book across devices worked well, though, so hopefully the bookmarking feature will show up soon.

All in, Oyster is well worth a try for those that find themselves buying more than an ebook a month. --Suzanne Kantra

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FREE is better

From Julie Isham on September 16, 2013 :: 10:04 am

Well, first of all - I have a Kindle Fire… so this service is not for me (yet) - but over the past year I have downloaded over 2,000 FREE books by subscribing to different “search” groups that find all the FREE books for Kindles.
I am not that big into getting the “latest and greatest” - I have about 3 authors that I buy as soon as their books come out - read “about $30 a year”... so why PAY for something that is no better than FREE?
Maybe it’s worth it to those who have kids - as I don’t any more, so finding those type of books are not a requirement…
And yes, not all the FREE books I’ve downloaded are good - but hey, with that many FREE ones… I can just delete it off my library and start another one! Why pay for this????? Especially if, as you state in your Editors Note - you can’t get the ones off the NY Times best seller list???

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There are more and better sites for free

From Ernesto Colina on September 16, 2013 :: 10:26 am

There are more and better sites for free, don’t get scalped by unscrupulous merchants.

How about :
862 sites for free ebooks
https://www.techsupportalert.com/content/50-places-free-books-online.htm
(the list started with 50, now it the number of sites is aproximately 862)

192 Places For Free Audio Books Online
https://www.techsupportalert.com/free-books-audio

Freebook Sifter
http://www.freebooksifter.com/
32000 Free ebooks for kindle

World Digital Library
http://www.wdl.org/en/
Thousands of free ebooks from around the world

Project Gutenberg
http://www.gutenberg.org/

And a lot more…

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THANKS

From Julie Craig - Isham on September 16, 2013 :: 10:39 am

Oh man, even MORE FREE places - I can’t wait to go and check all of them out - thanks!!!!!!

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Yes, there are great free

From Suzanne Kantra on September 16, 2013 :: 11:01 am

Yes, there are great free options. We covered our favorites in our story “How to Find Free eBooks and Audiobooks”. I’ve found that the free options don’t always have the authors and titles I’m looking for, or, in the case of public libraries, the number of copies is limited.

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