Monday, September 21, 2015

Oyster closed its shell today

UPDATE: CEO of Smashwords Mark Coker  has confirmed that Oyster was bought by Google and that the shutdown won't be fast.  The service will continue to run until early 2016, no exact date has been determined as of yet.

Oyster the service that was poised to be the pearl of the eBook subscription model (all the books you want for $9.95 a month) closed its shell today.  I wrote about then shortly after they opened.  At the time they were the first on the scene, with Scribd right behind them.  While they only supported iOS I figured it was only a matter of time before that was expanded (support for Android was added, eventually).  Scribd by contrast had support for iOS and Android at the start.

This announcement comes only a few months after Scribd ran into problems and had to scale back its catalogue of romance titles or risk going out of business.

It is very difficult to balance giving a all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of books to the customer, while not loosing your shirt in the process.  But this closure signals a possible end to the subscription model, or at the very least hands it over to Amazon.  They are the only company left in good financial standing that can  weather out this unknown business model with ease.

Details are vague as to what exactly happened at Oyster.  There are rumors they were purchased, and are being quietly shut down as a result.  Re/code says most of the team is transferring to Google.  And while Google is not saying they purchased the company, but rather is paying for the right to hire some of its staff.  But at 17 million, that is a high price to pay unless you have some big plans for the team.  I am guessing, and it is only a guess, that you will see some sort of monthly subscription plan show up on Google Books in the near future.

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