Oyster, the ‘Netflix for books,’ makes its debut

Welcome to your new pocket-sized library.


Miles Klee


Posted on Sep 6, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 7:10 am CDT

One assumes that any avid reader who also keeps a Hulu or Netflix account would stumble upon the idea eventually—why not a “streaming” service for books? Oyster, which launched this week, is the first app to offer just that.

But don’t get too excited: right now Oyster is an invite-only affair, first come, first served. And even when it opens up to the masses, it’s only for the iPhone. Sorry, tablet and Android users. Something else has got to be in the pipeline, right?

Nevertheless, Oyster presents a promising development in the digitizing of reading: for $9.95 a month—comparable, once again, to Netflix—you get access to over 100,000 titles, with more on the way. It’s not simply a cloud-based library, either; in fact, the books are stored in the software, which also incorporates the social aspects of a website like Goodreads, so that users can follow each others’ reviews, recommendations, and reading activity.

Aesthetics, too, are a big part of the equation, perhaps more so than they have been for ereaders in the past, as the product launch announcement made clear:

Designed and developed for mobile, we’ve worked to showcase the beauty of our books. Our editorial sets and personalized recommendations are tuned for mobile, allowing you to move from browsing to reading to sharing smoothly and quickly.

In our reader we’ve developed five custom themes that combine elements of typography to create distinctive and stylistically unique designs, making mobile reading a joy in any environment.

If you can stand to read entire books on a smartphone, this certainly seems the ideal way to go. Personally, I can’t understand how anyone prefers that to lugging around 800-page hardcovers. Oh, and that 100,000-title collection only sounds impressive until you realize that in the U.S. alone, more than three times that many books are released every year.

Whichever way you slice it, you’ve got some serious catch-up reading to do.

Photo by Paul Lowry/Flickr

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*First Published: Sep 6, 2013, 2:36 pm CDT