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Google hires Oyster execs as ebook service announces shutdown

Oyster, the so-called Netflix for ebooks, is shutting down. Its CEO and founders announced their plans to close Oyster in a blog post this afternoon, writing that the service would be sunset over the next several months. They give no reason for why Oyster is closing, saying only that their vision for ebooks will be "best seized by taking on new opportunities."

What would Google want with an ebook subscription team?

Google appears to be part of the impetus, too. According to Recode, Google has hired "a portion" of Oyster's team, including its CEO and founders. Though it isn't buying Oyster outright, Google will apparently be paying Oyster's investors for the right to hire some of its staff — it is, Recode says, fair to call this an acquihire. Those Oyster employees will move over to the Google Play Books team. Google gave no specific comment on what they'll be doing, but there's obvious room to speculate on Google moving into the subscription ebook space.

Oyster launched in 2013 offering unlimited access to 100,000 ebooks for a monthly fee. It's since expanded to include more than 1 million ebooks through deals with Macmillan, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. It even landed some major exclusives, like the Harry Potter series. Oyster's service was not unique, however. Scribd offered essentially the same service and pricing with similar content; Scribd had also expanded to include thousands of audiobooks. Amazon is in the ebook subscription game, too. It's a slightly less crowded field now, but still a pretty young one.