Oyster Launches New eBook Store, But It’s a Walled Garden

Oyster eBook Store

Today Oyster announced that they’ve just opened the doors on their new ebook store, where they sell ebooks from all the major publishers.

Right now the store is only available to residents in the United States, but Oyster is expected to begin expanding internationally later this year.

Previously Oyster only offered ebooks through a monthly subscription plan for $9.99 per month. Now that service has been renamed Oyster Unlimited, and the available titles remain the same.

The new Oyster ebook store operates along side the subscription service, and includes many titles that publishers won’t offer in the subscription program.

The ebook store includes titles from the big five publishing houses— Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—along with a number of titles from Scholastic, Harlequin, Norton and Chronicle.

There are two ways to purchase ebooks from Oyster: through the Oyster website and from their Android app. Their iOS app doesn’t support in-app purchases, like most ebooks apps, because Apple requires a 30% cut, and companies can’t make a profit doing that.

It’s always good to have more competition and choices in the ebook market, but Oyster still has a long way to go. Right off the bat I can see two huge problems with Oysters new ebook store.

First, it’s a walled garden. The ebooks you purchase from Oyster can only be read using an Oyster app or Oyster web reader. You cannot download the books to read with E Ink ereaders or use your favorite ebook app. It’s Oyster’s app or nothing. You can’t even download the books to your PC to remove the DRM.

Oyster’s iOS app supports devices running iOS 7.1 and newer, and their Android app works with devices that run Android 4.0 and up. There’s also the Oyster web reader that works with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox web browsers.

The second problem is the price of Oyster’s ebooks. I checked about a dozen random popular titles, and a few titles were the same price but most were cheaper at Amazon for the Kindle edition, sometimes significantly cheaper.

Examples: The Boys in the Boat – $9.99 at Oyster; $2.99 at Amazon. The Girl on the Train – $12.99 at Oyster; $6.99 at Amazon. NYPD Red 3 – $12.99 at Oyster; $9.99 at Amazon. Wild – $10.99 at Oyster; $4.62 at Amazon. Unbroken – $11.99 at Oyster; $4.99 at Amazon.

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