Updated: Subscription eBook Services Compared

Update for 18 July 2014: With Amazon having launched the Kindle Unlimited service this morning, it was high time that I updated this post to reflect the changed market.The following post matches up 5 different services that are available in the US or globally:


  • Oyster offers 500,000 titles, but few are frontlist and few are bestsellers.
  • Amazon boasts that the Kindle Owner's Lending Library stocks over 550 thousand titles, most of which were added via KDP Select.
  • Scribd has a catalog of over 400,000
  • Kindle Unlimited has 650,000 titles at launch, many of which are also found in KOLL. There are also 7,300 audiobooks.
  • Bookmate offers 400,000 titles, but they tend to be concentrated in certain markets.


  • Oyster costs $10 a month for unlimited access.
  • 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. You are limited to borrowing a single ebook title each month.
  • Scribd costs $9 a month for unlimited access.
  • Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 for unlimited access, but limits you to only having 10 titles at a time.
  • Bookmate costs $5 a month, which is usually billed through a subscriber's cellphone company.


Oyster and Kindle Unlimited are only available in the US. Scribd is available globally, and the Kindle Owner's Lending Library is only available to Kindle owners in the US, UK, and other select markets.

Bookmate is technically available globally but the company is concentrating its attention on certain markets: Russia, the Ukraine, Turkey, and Kazakhstan. They plan to expand into Scandinavia and Latin America by the end of 2014.


  • Oyster launched their pilot with an iPhone app, and later released iPad and Android apps.
  • Scribd has iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, and iPad apps, and you can read in your web browser.
  • Kindle Owner's Lending Library is only available on a Kindle.
  • Kindle Unlimited is available on any Kindle device or app.
  • Bookmate offers apps for Android and iOS.
About Nate Hoffelder (11161 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

6 Comments on Updated: Subscription eBook Services Compared

  1. FYI : The Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is also available in Germany for Prime customers

  2. Safari probably shouldn’t be in the list since it is really focused on the tech books and you can’t get those books on the other services.

    It’s also pretty expensive but compared to what tech books cost it might be a bargain for some folks.

  3. TODAY i cancelled membership with scribd. Ultimate access is misleading there are many books unavailable to UK readers eg Harlequin Romance otherwise known as Mills and Boon. Three days ago i contacted scribd help desk and asked why i could no longer download my favoured choice in books, their answer was that the publishing laws have changed you will not be able to obtain these books in your country.

    • Hi Margaret,

      Sorry to bother you. I just signed up for a free trial of Scribd and found lots of books there. But now I’m curious – would I be able to still read everything I saved on my device if I cancel the membership or would my whole saved library disappear? Did you lose your books after the cancellation?

      Kind regards,

  4. I find it a good idea to check the local library’s ebook selection as well as subscription sites when looking for a title. It is however time-consuming to search through all these sites one by one. I am working on a site that helps you find the book you’re looking for in your local library, in the online free OpenLibrary and subscription sites, e.g. Scribd and Bookmate: http://elibsearch.com

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