Currently, the service is only available through the iPhone app and is US-only. An iPad app is coming this fall. Similar to Netflix, users pay a monthly fee to gain access to the library.
Oyster carries books from hundreds of publishers, including top names such as HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Smashwords. Browsing through the titles available, I saw several books that I’ve been wanting to read for a while, but searches for new releases that I’ve been hearing about turned up empty.
Netflix was the same way when it first launched. It had a large catalog, but often lagged behind on the most current and popular content.
However, Oyster has a trickier value proposition than Netflix. Most of us probably read fewer books than we watch movies in any given month. Oyster’s monthly fee is roughly the price of owning a single book, though possibly less in some cases. Avid readers that aren’t obsessed with owning a book collection will get great value out of Oyster, but occasional readers and collectors might have a harder time justifying the expense.
Still, I’m enthusiastic about the service because it has the potential to help us all read more. If Oyster takes off, more publishers will take notice, resulting in a better selection. When I was a kid, the local public library felt like a limitless source of free knowledge. Since growing up, I’ve mostly turned to the Internet for that same feeling, and Oyster recreates it as well (for a small monthly fee).
An Internet connection is required to access a book for the first time, but the Oyster app will store a user’s 10 most recent books for offline use. Members will also be able to use Oyster while traveling overseas.
I’m guessing that you already have a sense whether this service is for you. To paraphrase the Bard, the world is our Oyster, which we with iPhones will open.