Neither service is open to the public just yet, and in fact I only have an invite to eReatah and not Oyster, but we already know a fair amount about each service just from the press coverage.
Oyster offers a Netflix style of service (unlimited access but not ownership) while eReatah's service more closely resembles Audible or a book club. eReatah is actually selling the ebooks, while Oyster is only letting you read them. Both services offer offline reading.
Update: For the sake of completeness I have added Kindle Owner's Lending Library as a third option.
Oyster offers 100,000 titles, but few are frontlist and few are bestsellers. According to GigaOm participating publishers include:
HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman, Algonquin, Melville House, Rodale, Open Road, RosettaBooks, F+W Media and self-publishing distributor Smashwords.
eReatah offers 80,000 titles from a smaller selection of publishers, but they also have each publisher's complete catalog and not just a selection of less popular titles. Participating publishers include:
S&S, HMH, Berrett-Koehler, Diversion Books, Independent Publishers Group, Ingram Content Group, Open Road Integrated Media, Sourcebooks, and Workman.
Amazon boasts that the Kindle Owner's Lending Library stocks over 370 thousand titles, about half of which were added via KDP Select.
- Oyster costs $10 a month.
- eReatah costs between $17 and $34 a month for a subscription that buys 2, 3 or 4 ebooks each month.
- Kindle Owner's Lending Library comes as part of an Amazon Prime membership, and in the US that costs $79 per year but includes other extras like free 2 day shipping and free streaming video.
There's no mention of the the number of ebooks that can be read in Oyster in a month, but with eReatah you are limited to only reading the ebooks you bought. And with KOLL you are limited to borrowing a single title each month.
Oyster launched their pilot today with an iPhone app. They are planning an iPad app but don't have plans for Android.
Kindle Owner's Lending Library is only available to Kindle owners.
So which is the better service? That really depends on whether you want access vs ownership, and it also depends on which service builds their catalog faster. If one ends up with a significantly better selection then that could well be the deciding factor.
I've been reading the coverage of Oyster today, and I think this service is the one I would be the most interested in trying. I don't care that much about reading the latest and most popular ebooks, so the content limitations won't bother me. Unfortunately, I don't have an iPhone and I don't really use my iPad much. So even if i had an invite I couldn't use it.
As it stands, I have access to KOLL but don't use it very much. I don't care to read on my Kindle.