Oyster is the next company betting that consumers will be more willing to spend on media if offered all-you-can-eat deals. It worked for Netflix and movies, so Oyster is applying the strategy to ebooks. Oyster launched today, and the startup is offering unlimited access to a library of more than 100,000 book titles for a Netflix-esque price of $9.95 a month. To the company's credit, they've managed to license some popular books, including Lord of the Rings, Shutter Island, and Water for Elephants. But just as Netflix struggled to sign up film studios when it first rolled out its web streaming service, Oyster has licensed ebooks from only one of the major publishers: HarperCollins. According to GigaOm, Oyster's management is in negotiations with the other top publishers. Still, expect some big holes in the catalog.
And that's not the end of the drawbacks: if you're not an iPhone owner, you're out of luck, because that's the only format Oyster is available on for now. And you'd better get ready for an onslaught of subscription services pitching themselves as the "Netflix of this" and the "Netflix of that" — even though magazines and pay TV have sold subscriptions for decades, the success of Netflix and streaming music Spotify has convinced investors and tech companies this is the golden age of buying media in bulk.