Reading is a nice habit to have. When I was younger I kind of took it more as advice both my parents, and teachers would try to drill into my head, but over time, like most of us, I too learned the value a book can carry.
I also learned that they were pretty expensive.
It’s not just books either. Subscriptions to prominent newspapers, and magazines (both in print an online) can leave a light feeling in your wallet. When a full time job makes sitting in the library, or book store for hours on end impossible, people start looking for alternatives.
That’s where Oyster comes in. They’re looking to make reading endless amounts of material cost-friendly, and efficient. Basically, they’re offering unlimited access to their database for just $10 a month.
Who Are They?
I originally came across Oyster after reading Business Insider’s article on the Top Ten Coolest New York startups to work for. While that bit was more centered around interesting facets of its company culture, I took an interest in the service itself. Living in Greece, it can sometimes be difficult to access books I want to read, both because of a lack of availability, along with increased shipping expenses when ordering online.
Founded by Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown (CTO), and Willem Van Lancker (CPO), the company got up and running in 2012, and to date has accumulated nearly $20 million in funding, $14 million of which came this past January.
‘Wired’ picked up on the company as far back as last year, publishing an article praising the service. To be fair, I haven’t seen many startups called “gorgeous”.
As mentioned above, Oyster has one basic selling point. It’s offering potential users an almost endless amount of content for a low monthly fee. The company mentions that selections include New York Times bestsellers, and Oprah’s picks, and once you start reading, the service will start recommending you similar titles to what you’ve already shown an interest in.
The platform is compatible to a range of access methods as well. You can make Oyster work for Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, along with its web version.
One of the interesting aspects related to the firm mentioned in the Business Insider article was that the staff actually publish articles on the company blog, listing their personal picks for books, developing an interesting level of interaction between supplier, and consumer which is admittedly hard to come by today.
While the company has been attracting a lot of attention, not all of it has been praise. The International Business Times released an article last January noting that while the $9.95 a month price tag seems tempting, the value for money might not really be all it’s made out to be, judging by national reading trends.
In spite of that though, Oyster should have every reason to feel confident. They’re providing what is generally low cost access to a seemingly endless archive of material. Right now the biggest issue is their competition. Book subscription services like Amazon Kindle Unlimited are offering a similar service, and have an established brand name to go along with them. As such, it’s up to Oyster to be able to find enough space in the market for differentiation, or really start pushing a unique selling point, or competitive advantage as opposed to what else is out there at this point in time.
(image from nymag.com)