Facing increased pressure from competing subscription services like the recently launched Epic, Oyster Books announced today that they were expanding their service with a new selection of titles from Disney Publishing and a new children's section.
Oyster, which launched in September 2013, offers a catalog of 100,000 titles which can be read on the iPad or iPhone (Android and browser apps are in the works). The service costs $10 a month and enables users to download and read as many titles as they like.
Along with 100 new titles from Disney, the new kids' section includes around 10,000 titles which Oyster was already offering as part of its catalog. The Disney selection includes well-known names like Toy Story, Cars and the Disney Princesses, and other titles in this section include works from HarperCollins, Open Road Media. There's a wide variety of titles, and the section focuses more on chapter books and YA titles like the Boxcar Children series, Lemony Snicket, and Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona. But it does also include titles for small children - Curious George, for example.
Oyster launched last year with a more general focus on readers of all ages. In the larger ebook subscription market they have to compete with Scribd and the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, but in the smaller kid's niche competition is much more fierce. Several competing subscription services have launched in the past few years, including Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street, Epic, and Kindle Freetime.
This last is a paid service from Amazon that starts at $3 a month and provides access to a curated selection of games, ebooks, and videos. That service includes around 1600 ebook titles, far fewer than Oyster or Amazon's other ebook subscription service.
Kindle Freetime also differs from Oyster in that Oyster has no plans to offer a separate subscription for the new kid's section. Instead Oyster CEO Eric Stromberg said, "we’re going to continue to build as a broadly compelling offering", and encourage parents to share accounts with their kids.
Oyster has raised around $17 million in capital, including a $14 million round which closed last month as well as $3 million raised when the company was formed in late 2012.It has somewhere between 1 and 1 million subscribers.
I, for one, am not one of Oyster's subscribers, because without an Android app it has absolutely zero appeal. If I were to sign up for a service, I would go for Scribd. It has both Android and iOS apps, and you can read ebooks in your web browser.
But TBH I didn't sign up with either service; I already own too many ebooks that I want to reread (or read for the first time). A monthly charge of $9 or $10 to gain access to even more content is not worth the cost - not to me, anyway.