Whilst fans of movies, music, and even video games are now able to access a variety of content at an unlimited rate via the internet (with the amount available ranging from minimal to widespread based on industry or service) at nothing beyond a single fixed cost or monthly rate, traditional digital forms of media are now being joined by a comparitively untapped market for digital consumption – the world of published literature.
Launching earlier this week in a first-come first-served trial format, start-up company Oyster have revealed what is currently an iPhone-only service in America (with plans to expand to iPad later this year), an ebook-reading platform that offers over 100,000 titles to its limited userbase, giving unlimited access to the selections for $9.95.
Signing deals with publishers including HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Smashworlds, and Workman, creators Andrew Brown, Eric Stromberg, and Willem Van Lancker have built the app over the past year, arranging the legal provisions, technological aspects, and publisher contracts to bring their vision to life.
Oyster is noted as having raised $3m in start-up funding from investors including Chris Dixon, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Shari Redstone, and SV Angel, with the appeal of the platform (to both investors and potential users) naturally being that there will be an entire library of content at a subscriber’s disposal, and whilst many will claim it is unable to measure up to the ‘feel’ of a physical publication, it will be undeniable that saving the space of many books is a key benefit for an avid reader, as well as those who do not want to commit to buying entire books.
The potential of the platform, which amongst other comparisions to video service Netflix include specific searches by title and genre along with content recommendations and tracking content of friends (albeit with an optional ‘privacy mode’), is naturally vast, and could attract the attention of the likes of Amazon, Apple, and Google, with their own version of a book subscription service, particularly Amazon through their dedicated Kindle e-reader platforms.
Stromberg was undeterred by such ‘issues’, though, as he said of the potential of rivals in the new market: “It’s out of our hands. So doesn’t make too much sense to worry about it.”
Van Lancker added of suggestions they could offer a variet of content types in the future to challenge the other streaming platforms: “Our focus is books, that’s all we think about.”
All that stance takes to change, however, is a little success, so if that ever comes to fruition (which for a service currently not released to the public is naturally dependent on a number of factors), how strong will their resolve be in maintaining their status as a book-exclusive platform?