By now, we’ve all gotten pretty used to not owning stuff—at least in the traditional, hold-it-in-your-hands sense. If you’re anything like me, your DVD collection stopped growing a few years back once Netflix and Hulu bolstered their offerings. And that CD storage stand (hell, even your iTunes account) has probably gathered dust thanks to Spotify and Rdio. But books? Turns out, we’re still content to pay $10 for a paperless novel that we’re not even certain we’ll like or finish. The publishing industry is among the last holdouts in the ongoing transition from owning media to accessing it through a monthly service, but that’s about to change with the launch of Oyster, an app released today for the iPhone that’s looking to transform the way you read and pay for books.
Maybe you’ve heard that claim before. Kindle does have its lending library, and your local library already allows you to digitally check out books. But when I say Oyster is different, that’s because it is. For $9.95 a month you get unlimited access to more than 100,000 titles, and according to the founders, that number is growing daily. You can jump from Jessica Alba (yes, Jessica Alba wrote a book) to Charles Bukowski with the same ease of shuffling from Katy Perry to J Dilla on Spotify. There’s no pressure to finish either since users can add as many books as they’d like to their reading list, and the last 10 opened will instantly be downloaded for offline reading. Liz Stinson
I’m all for new monetization models for e-books, but a good designed iPhone-only app is only a small start. Entering the book market is not an easy task, even for a huge company like Apple. The number of titles is meaningless if some publishers are not in and if the service doesn’t have rights for new releases; that would mean you have to purchase the rest of the titles elsewhere. Also, an iPhone-only app cannot hope to compete with Amazon’s platform, available pretty-much everywhere. I suspect it will either get acquired by a bigger company or simply crushed when Amazon or Apple will offer their own subscription services.