Oyster is bucking the trend this week. While most a lot of media services avoid in-app purchases on iOS, the ebook subscription service Oyster released a new update on Friday to their app which added the option.
Oyster for iOS v1.8 adds unnamed bug fixes, major syncing improvements, and new color and personalization options - or so the changelog says; the app requires iOS 7 (which I don't have).
But those are the lesser changes; the big news today is that Oyster is adding in-app purchases. Readers will now be able to buy a one, 6, or 12 month subscription to Oyster using their existing Apple account. Oyster already offers a similar gifting option on their website, and now they are selling subscriptions inside their iOS app.
That's a bigger deal than it sounds. As you might recall from the ruckus a few months ago when Amazon removed the in-app purchases from the Comixology app, any transaction inside an iOS app has to be handled by Apple, which takes a 30% cut of the proceeds.
That 30% vig is more than most content services can afford or are willing to pay, which is why many media companies, including everyone from Amazon to Netflix, don't sell anything inside their app. Others, including Spotify, simply pass the fee along to their customers.
Only a handful of ebook companies, including Inkling and some of the smaller indie publishers, have in-app payments. And now we can add Oyster to that list.
And I am not sure that was a good idea. Oyster is trading a significant drop in revenue for the opportunity to make sales which Amazon and Scribd cannot. This could work out to a net positive, but Oyster has certain financial issues which make me doubt that will happen.
Oyster offers an all you can read service which costs subscribers $10 a month. Readers can choose form a catalog of over 500,000 titles, including ebooks from leading publishers like HMH, Wiley, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster.
Rather than pay publishers a percentage of its revenues, Oyster is committed to paying each time a book is read. To be more exact, Oyster is committed to paying the wholesale price on a book should a reader reach a certain threshold. This means that if a reader hits the threshold on enough books in a given month (two front list titles from S&S, for example) that reader is a net loss for Oyster.
And now that Oyster is giving up $3 from the monthly subscription, their margin is even narrower - for certain users, anyway. I hope this bet pays off, but I honestly don't think it will - not so long as Apple takes that 30%.
You can find the app in iTunes.
? Features ?
· Bookmarks! We have bookmarks!
· In-App Purchase using your Apple account. Buy Oyster credits for 1, 6, or 12-month time periods.
· More genres—our editors added 22 new, hand-curated genres to the library.
· More personalization in Home including a new “Recommended for You” section.
· A new color palette on iPad. It’s the finest navy you’ve ever set eyes on, if we may say so ourselves.
· Design improvements to Explore. Genres are now shown in a beautiful new view with Recommended Genres displayed at the top.
· Tap on the ellipsis or go to the bottom of Explore to see all Genres.
? Other Updates ?
· Major improvements to syncing across all platforms. Made with 3 parts code, 1 part elbow grease, and a dash of bitters.
· Bug fixes and other performance improvements.