Oyster: Netflix for Books

#Future

Thu, Sep 19th, 2013 12:00 by capnasty NEWS

On The New Yorker, an interesting look at Oyster, a service that can best be described as the Netflix for books. This is more of a lending service than actually letting you own a book, but as I don't keep every book I've read -- only special ones -- a service like this may actually work for me.

The app, which takes its name from a line in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (“the world’s mine oyster,” spoken, incidentally, by a thief), currently gives users access to more than a hundred thousand titles for a monthly fee of just under ten bucks. (Netflix for books, as it’s been called.) Users tap a book to read it instantly, and can store up to ten downloads at a time to read offline. Oyster also offers recommendations based on previous selections, and allows users to share what they’ve been reading on social media. (You can also turn off the social features and read privately.) Right now you need an invitation to join, but Oyster will be expanding both how many people can use it and the number of available books, and the founders say that they plan to release a version for iPad later this fall.

Since it doesn’t require individual purchases, Oyster encourages browsing. As with Netflix’s Watch Instantly service, chances are good that on Oyster you won’t find the exact book you’ve been wanting to read—but you will be steered toward others that you’d considered and forgotten in the past, or something new that catches your eye. (Oyster’s current recommendation algorithm still needs a little tweaking; many of the “related” books that accompany James Salter’s “A Sport and a Pastime,” for instance, are about baseball.) The service is less useful for readers who aren’t looking for recommendations and who know exactly what they want to read.

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