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Comparing eBook Subscription Services Oyster, eReatah and Kindle Owner’s Lending Library: Content, Price, and Availability

September 5th, 2013 by · 6 Comments · ebook subscription

ereatahTwo different ebook subscription services launched this week, so let’s take a look at how they compare.

Neither service is open to the public just yet, and in fact I only have an invite to eReatah and not Oyster, but we already know a fair amount about each service just from the press coverage.

PrintOyster offers a Netflix style of service (unlimited access but not ownership) while eReatah’s service more closely resembles Audible or a book club. eReatah is actually selling the ebooks, while Oyster is only letting you read them. Both services offer offline reading.

Update: For the sake of completeness I have added Kindle Owner’s Lending Library as a third option.

Content

Oyster offers 100,000 titles, but few are frontlist and few are bestsellers. According to GigaOm participating publishers include:

HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman, Algonquin, Melville House, Rodale, Open Road, RosettaBooks, F+W Media and self-publishing distributor Smashwords.

eReatah offers 80,000 titles from a smaller selection of publishers, but they also have each publisher’s complete catalog and not just a selection of less popular titles. Participating publishers include:

S&S, HMH, Berrett-Koehler, Diversion Books, Independent Publishers Group, Ingram Content Group, Open Road Integrated Media, Sourcebooks, and Workman.

Amazon boasts that the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library stocks over 370 thousand titles, about half of which were added via KDP Select.

Cost

  • Oyster costs $10 a month.
  • eReatah costs between $17 and $34 a month for a subscription that buys 2, 3 or 4 ebooks each month.
  • Kindle Owner’s Lending Library comes as part of an Amazon Prime membership, and in the US that costs $79 per year but includes other extras like free 2 day shipping and free streaming video.

There’s no mention of the the number of ebooks that can be read in Oyster in a month, but with eReatah you are limited to only reading the ebooks you bought. And with KOLL you are limited to borrowing a single title each month.

Availability

Oyster launched their pilot today with an iPhone app. They are planning an iPad app but don’t have plans for Android.

eReatah offers apps for Android, iPad, or iPhone, and you can also download the ebooks and transfer them to a compatible ereader that supports Adobe DE DRM.

Kindle Owner’s Lending Library is only available to Kindle owners.

Opinion

So which is the better service? That really depends on whether you want access vs ownership, and it also depends on which service builds their catalog faster. If one ends up with a significantly better selection then that could well be the deciding factor.

I’ve been reading the coverage of Oyster today, and I think this service is the one I would be the most interested in trying. I don’t care that much about reading the latest and most popular ebooks, so the content limitations won’t bother me. Unfortunately, I don’t have an iPhone and I don’t really use my iPad much. So even if i had an invite I couldn’t use it.

As it stands, I have access to KOLL but don’t use it very much. I don’t care to read on my Kindle.

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Mikaela

    Both of them sounds good, but I’m definitely more interested in Oyster. Or I would be, if they had an Android app. I really hope Oyster are planning an Android app in the future, since if not they are cutting out a big chunk of their customer base.

  • Gary

    I think some of this misses the point that each author or publisher needs to be able to determine and offer the best package for their particular work and audience. I think a one-size-fits-all mentality for subscription pricing for books misses this point badly. If for no better reason than existing business relationships/contracts will dictate different arrangements, I think that consumers will not necessarily want to consume literary content in the same way that they consume video content (although I personally have been a netflix subscriber for years).

    • David Haywood Young

      I agree with you. In fact I think it’s damn near impossible for you to be wrong in the long run. But there may be money in this stuff for a while yet.

      My $.02: it’s way more likely that the future will see a more distributed landscape than further Netflix-style centralization of content. Most likely, along the way we’ll see lots of subscriptions available, possibly even on a per-author basis (ahem…I have these plans…).

      As the technology to host/deliver content gets easier to use, and its use becomes more distributed over time, and “intellectual property” laws continue to adapt over time? These “gatekeeper” business models that depend on getting everybody on the same page are pretty much doomed. They’re all gearing up for what they should’ve done five years ago.

      I think Netflix is doomed too–but I also think they’ll last longer than the book-subscription folks, and ATM my wife and I have separate Netscape subscriptions just so our conflicting tastes don’t…you know…conflict re: recommendations. Meaning (IMO) that semi-centralized indexes will always provide more value than actual content-hosting. Only thing is, that becomes a very democratic landscape once people start hosting stuff themselves, so you have to provide lots and lots of value to succeed. And direct monetization of an index might be difficult, too–plus, affiliate links only work when you can deal with a manageable number of content providers.

      In the end? Artists depend on the goodwill of the entertained. Always have, always will. That’s all we can count on. The nice thing? It doesn’t depend on a middleman in in principle, and in practice we’re starting to see the effects.

      So okay, I’m way out there. But still–I think I’m right. {8′>

  • Yoav Lorch

    Subscription models, in the majority of cases, are systems where light users subsidize heavy users. Think about your local gym.
    Total Boox (www.totalboox.com), offers a service with no prior commitments, and no need to spend money if you are not getting any value. Download free as many books as you want, and pay only for the pages you actually read. Don’t pay your monthly fee if you are not reading much this month, and don’t pay the full cost of the book if you are reading only part of it. Check it out.

  • Darlene Dranda

    As a NYT subscriber whose comments are regularly published on a variety of subjects, digital readers thus far have a limited interest. Frequently, I print articles with and without my comments. As a writer with a website and smartphone, however, my interest has peaked as a result of this update. Many thanks.

  • Alison Hewett

    Interestingly readers that want to rent titles or just want access rather than ownership are far better to support their local public library who will have OverDrive and others and with it free access to the latest bestsellers and a huge backlist. Libraries more than willing and able to buy multiple copies of titles when the demand is there.

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