Love Books? It’s Time To Consider Subscribing To Oyster

Oyster Scratch

Last December I told you about Oyster, an e-book subscription service that many have likened to “Netflix for books.” (Seems like there’s a Netflix for everything these days, though I’m still waiting on “Netflix for cookies.”) You pay a flat monthly rate and get unlimited access to every book in the Oyster library.

Back then, the service felt a little half-baked. (Clearly I’m still thinking about cookies.) Its catalog consisted of only about 100,000 titles, and its mobile apps were limited to iOS devices.

What a difference six months can make.

Now, Oyster is available for Android devices, Kindle Fire tablets, and Nook HD tablets. What’s more, it now boasts over 500,000 books, including a large selection from recently added publisher Simon & Shuster. Thus you can enjoy many of the works of Andrew Clements, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Stephen Chbosky, and Chuck Klosterman, to name a few.

Sound good? Let’s look at the math. Oyster costs $9.95 per month. Over at Amazon, the Kindle editions of Jess Walter’s “Beautiful Ruins” and Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” cost $5.99 and $6.99 each. If you read just two such books per month, you’d save a couple bucks.

But I know plenty of avid readers who mow through one or two books per week. That could easily end up costing $30 or more per month, in which case Oyster represents a fantastic value.

Of course, that presumes the service carries every book you’d want to read, which at this point it probably does not. But as with Netflix, there’s much to be said for having unlimited on-demand access to a large (and growing) library.

Just bear in mind that, as with Netflix, if you give up your subscription, you lose access to your books. If you’re someone who’d rather own than rent, check out Entitle. For that same monthly sawbuck, you get two e-books you can keep forever. The selection is smaller (about 200,000-plus), but there’s plenty of good stuff to read.

The good news is you can try before you buy in. Oyster will give you a month free of charge, while Entitle will give you seven days and a free-to-keep book.

And just to confuse matters, there’s also Scribd, which charges $8.99 monthly and also affords unlimited access to its library–just like Oyster. Again, you can try it free for 30 days.

My advice: Try them all. But I will say Oyster seems to be leading the pack in terms of overall selection, and that’s what matters.

Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and, and also writes for PC World and Wired.


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