Oyster Launches Ebook Store
Oyster announced today a significant shift in its business model with the launch of its own ebook store. The former subscription-only platform is hoping that its dedication to a high quality reading experience and engaging discovery platform will sway consumers from lower-priced options like Amazon.
Oyster has had success getting publishers to buy into the idea. All Top 10 publishers have provided titles for the store, which has over one million books at launch and is accessible to both subscribers and non-subscribers. The discoverability aspects of Oyster's platform, which offers both algorithmic recommendations and editorial suggestions, has won over a number of publishers but some have questioned the profitability of a subscription model. By adding a buy option, Oyster is offering publishers a way to funnel readers toward a purchase. Promoted backlist titles may introduce a reader to a new author and successive recommendations could drive that reader to purchase the author's latest release. That could prove an effective combination for publishers seeking to cultivate new fans.
For Oyster co-founder and CEO Eric Stromberg, the shift to retail seemed a natural one. "Over the past 18 months we've built expertise in discovery, editorial, and user experience, all of which enhances the retail experience, as well as subscription," says Stromberg.
In particular, Oyster is betting big on user experience. As Clancy Marshall, VP of Core Platforms at Pearson noted at the recent Book Business Live event, when selling direct-to-consumer, publishers can't compete with established retailers on price. They will always be undercut. But they can provide other features that enhance the purchasing environment and entice readers despite higher prices. This is the approach Oyster has embraced, focusing on creating an app that is easy to use on multiple devices, offers helpful recommendations to readers, and provides original editorial to further reader discovery.
Ellen Harvey is a freelance writer and editor who covers the latest technologies and strategies reshaping the publishing landscape. She previously served as the Senior Editor at Publishing Executive and Book Business.