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Oyster Shucks Its Streaming eBook Service, Team Aqui-Hired by Google

oyster logoAny hope that streaming ebook services could be a serious alternative to Amazon were dashed today.

Oyster has announced that it is celebrating the two-year anniversary of launching its service by shutting down said service. It has quietly updated a two-month-old post ( seriously) on its blog with the announcement that it is winding down operations and that:

… we will be taking steps to sunset the existing Oyster service over the next several months. If you are an Oyster reader you will receive an email personally regarding your account in the next few weeks. We look forward to sharing more details soon, but rest assured, your account will continue to operate normally in the meantime.

Oyster had offered an unlimited reading service that cost $10 a month and offered access to a catalog of a million ebooks which could be read in Oyster’s apps for Android, iOS, or in your web browser.

Of the three subscription ebook services focused on the consumer ebook market, Oyster was the smallest. It had raised close to $20 million in the past couple years, but was never able to generate the same buzz as Kindle Unlimited or Scribd.

And now it’s gone.

Edit: And the team is gone as well. Re/code reports that the Oyster team is heading to Google, and they have confirmation from a Google rep:

A rep for the search giant confirmed that “a portion” of the Oyster team has joined Google Play Books, its online store for books. People familiar with the company say that CEO Eric Stromberg and co-founders Andrew Brown and Willem Van Lancker are part of the team joining Google.

Huh. I thought this would be a cloud tech acqui-hire, not ebooks. Looks like I got that one wrong.

Oyster’s shutdown notice follows a couple reports of cutbacks by its competitor Scribd, so it really comes as no surprise. In June Scribd culled its romance selection, and then in August it cut back its audiobook offering.

And now Oyster has run up against the same limitation faced by Scribd. Both companies were trying to pay their suppliers the wholesale price each time a book is loaned while at the same time charging their customers a flat monthly fee. As anyone could see years ago, the finances just didn’t add up.

With that in mind, the only thing surprising about today’s news was the timing, and not the event itself.

P.S. Rumors are going around that the company has been sold to an unnamed buyer who is closing down the company, but at this point all we have are rumors. I have queried Oyster and will expand on this post if I get a reply.

image by EEPaul


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