Calling its new online publication a form of “book discovery,” Oyster, the e-book subscription service, is launching the Oyster Review, an online literary journal that will publish original essays, reviews, and interviews on books and writing.
“It's our first entry into the public literary conversation and community,” said Oyster's editorial director, Kevin Nguyen, of the journal. Nguyen, who is also the editor of the Oyster Review, described the publication as the company's “latest discovery project,” explaining that “some readers want algorithmic recommendations, and others want editorial recommendations, or reviews.”
The Oyster Review is free to anyone who wants to read it, Nguyen said, and all the material will be original. The journal will supply a wide range of literary commentary, from reviews, essays and profiles, to humor and satirical pieces, interviews and comics. Current contributors include novelist Gabriel Roth (The Unknowns) and journalist Kyle Chayka. Cartoonist Hallie Bateman has done a comic about re-reading George Orwell’s 1984, and Nguyen himself has written an essay and a short appreciation of National Book Award honoree, Ursula Le Guin.
So Oyster has launched a book blog. Cool.
I don't know why they decided to give it the pretentious label of "online literary magazine", but I salute and fully support Oyster's foray into book blogging. A well-written book blog is a good way for a retailer to draw in potential customers, which is why B&N and Amazon already have book blogs (Amazon has a half-dozen book blogs, I think.)
And a book blog should compliment Oyster's ebook subscription service just as well as it compliments Amazon's ebookstore.
What I know about marketing could probably fill a couple post-it notes, but one thing I've figured out over the years is that a book blog is to an online bookseller what a sales flyer is to a supermarket. It's how the retailer makes a connection with its customers.
And I think Oyster figured that out as well. That's why they had posted job listings as early as weeks after their launch for someone to run a book blog. Well, they called it something different, but that's more or less what they were asking for.
In related news today, Oyster is also launching an author advisory board which will "bring authors together to engage in a meaningful discussion around the model and the future of digital reading".
Oyster reports that the board will provide input and feedback on product and content decisions at Oyster to help ensure that streaming services for books are mutually beneficial to writers, readers, and publishers for a long time to come. The feedback will be kept internal, and not shared with the public. At launch, inaugural board members include Roxane Gay, Megan Abbott and Lauren Oliver.