Oyster and Scribd
There’s two new developments in the book industry that are making me salivate, both as a reader and a writer. They’re called Oyster and Scribd, and they’re both recently-opened startups that promise to let you subscribe to an ebook service, a la Netflix.
Here’s how they work. You pay a monthly subscription fee ($9.95 a month for Oyster, $8.99 for Scribd) to get in. Once you’re in, you have access to the service’s entire database of ebooks. You can read as much as you want. So why doesn’t somebody sign up for one month, download a few hundred books, and run? You can only read the books while you’re a paid subscriber. Once you let your subscription lapse, the books disappear.
Why I’m excited as a reader
Both services are still hammering out deals with the major publishers, but if they do this right, their databases will have all the books. All the books. Right now, I agonize over book purchases because it’s a $10 investment, I have to give it shelf space, and I’m not at all confident I’m even going to like it. But if I could pay to have access to all the books, I’d start trying all sorts of new things I didn’t even know I liked.
Why I’m not going to sign up quite yet
I’m not a voracious enough reader of new stuff for this service to make financial sense to me, personally. I’m still a library and Project Gutenberg fiend. But there’s enough people out there who want the latest Jodi Picoult now that I think the system is going to work.
Why I’m excited as a writer
Did I mention that you get to read all the books?
So, about those aforementioned voracious readers. These services are going to be like the buffet to them. You pay once to get in, and then what? Try everything. I don’t know about Scribd’s terms yet, but for Oyster, every time you read more than 10% of a book, the author gets paid.
This is a great deal for obscure books (like, erm, me, a very obscure fantasy writer). I wouldn’t be willing to pay $3.99 for a self-published or $9.99 for a traditionally-published book I know nothing about. But if it’s free once you’re in, people will be willing to try new things.
This will be a good thing for writers if Scribd and Oyster wind up paying writers and publishers a fair price for their work. We’ll have to wait and see how that works out, but I’m hopeful.