Oyster Impressions

Potential, but missing titles.

September 9, 2013

Almost exactly two years ago I asked how much would you pay Amazon each month to have unlimited access to any Kindle book at at any time?

My answer was $1 dollar a day.   

What would you answer?

Now Oyster has come along saying that they will do the same thing for $10 a month.   

They are trying to brand themselves as the Netflix of books. This seems like a very bad idea, given how utterly terrible Netflix's streaming catalogue is compared to what is available in their DVD-by-mail service.   

I've been playing with the Oyster iPhone app, reading The New Geography of Jobs by Enrico Moretti.

Here are my impressions:

The Oyster iPhone app is absolutely gorgeous. The book discovery process is elegant, intuitive, and powerful.   

  • Oyster has done an amazing good job of re-thinking how to read on an iPhone size screen. You move through the book by swiping up on the screen. Rather than linear scrolling, where the text is one long page, the app progresses from page to page with each swipe. This creates a smooth, fast and pleasing reading experience. The text looks great, as the words are clean, bright and sharp. 
  • The ability to search or browse the library (and browsing is gorgeous in Oyster) and read whatever I want is a revelation. Well, maybe not a revelation. It feels like going to the library and looking at the shelves. Cost is not the constraint, but availability. And Oyster has no interlibrary loan.   
  • At a zero price point I'm less reluctant to try out a book that might look interesting. More willing to stray from my normal reading choices, choices often governed by reviews I've read of the book.

The big challenge that Oyster is going to face is the number of books available.  

Oyster is shipping with 100,000 titles. I'm sure the library will grow, but the question is will it grow fast enough before Amazon wipes Oyster out with an all-you-can eat Kindle reading plan.

To get a sense of the depth of the Oyster library I compared books available through Oyster with my most recent additions to my Amazon Kindle Wish List.

Oyster has none of the first 50 books in my Amazon Kindle Wish List. Zero.   

This is depressing. I typed each one in (the app can't import an Amazon Wish List as far as I can tell). Zero results.

We need to understand that this is early days for Oyster. That the library will improve. 

I hope that in a few months that I can review Oyster again and get much different results.

Here are the first 50 books on my Amazon Kindle Wish List.  

As of today I can read exactly zero of these books on my gorgeous Oyster iPhone app:

Higher Education in America
The Idea of the Digital University: Ancient Traditions, Disruptive Technologies and the Battle for the Soul of Higher Education
Models.Behaving.Badly: Why Confusing Illusion with Reality Can Lead to Disaster, on Wall Street and in Life
Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain
The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life
Brain Bugs: How the Brain's Flaws Shape Our Lives
Keynes Hayek: The Clash that Defined Modern Economics
Why Teach?: In Defense of a Real Education
Seeing What Others Don't: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights
What Got You Here Won't Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful
Leadership Conversations: Challenging High Potential Managers to Become Great Leaders
Two Nations Indivisible: Mexico, the United States, and the Road Ahead
Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter's Journey Through a Country's Descent into Darkness 
Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession 
Masters of the Word: How Media Shaped History 
The Next Best Thing: A Novel 
Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined     
Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry That Puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in Your Car, and Food on Your Plate
Checklist for Change: Making American Higher Education a Sustainable Enterprise  
The Shining Girls: A Novel
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls
The Interestings: A Novel
The Black Ice (A Harry Bosch Novel)
The English Girl: A Novel (Gabriel Allon)
Cockpit Confidential: Everything You Need to Know About Air Travel: Questions, Answers, and Reflections
The Unknowns: A Novel 
Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A Novel
Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir That Inspired "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"
Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad
Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)
Fate of the States: The New Geography of American Prosperity
Ship It Holla Ballas!: How a Bunch of 19-Year-Old College Dropouts Used the Internet to Become Poker's Loudest, Craziest, and Richest Crew
Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell
Detroit: An American Autopsy
Who Owns the Future?
Drunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave
The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking
Full Upright and Locked Position: Not-So-Comfortable Truths about Air Travel Today
Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance
World War Z (Mass Market Movie Tie-In Edition): An Oral History of the Zombie War
Joyland (Hard Case Crime)
The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
Red Sparrow: A Novel
The Finder
A Thousand Pardons: A Novel
Inside Greek U.: Fraternities, Sororities, and the Pursuit of Pleasure, Power, and Prestige
Simpler: The Future of Government
The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth
A History of Future Cities


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