Oyster: Is It Worth $9.95 a Month?
September 10, 2013 | 4:29 pm
By Juli Monroe
While Oyster is a great idea, and we’ve known an all-you-can-read type of subscription service was inevitable, is it the e-book subscription system to rule them all?
Sadly, I’m going to have to say, “no, not yet.” Now let me back that up.
You really have to evaluate a service like this based on three criteria
2. Availability of books
3. Look and feel of the app
Let’s start with price. My husband and I have been debating this off and on for a couple of days now. I’m a 15-20 book a month reader. Realistically, I’d never do all my reading in Oyster, but 1/3 to 1/2 might be reasonable. $9.95 is a great value for me.
My husband looks at it from a different perspective, and I see his point of view as well. He compared it to Netflix, which runs $7.99 a month for a streaming plan. He posits that the average user will watch more movies and TV episodes in a month than read books, making Oyster, by comparison, quite expensive.
I’m a far more active reader than he is, so I’m going to stick with Oyster being a great deal for a voracious reader, the probable target of the service, providing the selection is adequate.
Which leads me to selection. It’s better than I had expected. No, you won’t find current bestsellers. However, I found several authors whose back list I’ve been meaning to read: J. A. Jance and Dennis Lehane. I also found several books by Jodi Picoult, who is one of those authors I like sometimes and can’t stand at others. Trying her stuff without buying them separately is attractive.
In about five to ten minutes of searching I found at least three months worth of reading. It’s fair to assume that will only improve over time. The selection won’t be for everyone, but I think most readers will be able to find plenty to keep them busy for months.
Which leaves the app itself, and it’s a deal breaker for me.
It’s only available on the iPhone, which means it will run on the iPad, but either in an iPhone sized screen or blown up to double-sized. The graphics didn’t pixelate badly, but the font was larger than I like. They did have some nice themes, which changed both font and text/background color. I liked “Crosby” which was a serifed font on a sepia background. When you login on both iPad and iPhone, the app remembers your location in the book.
All of those are nice features, and you can change font size, but that’s the limit of customization. It’s quite plain and limited as an e-reader app, and if you’re used to lots of extra features like in Marvin, Moon+ Reader or the like, you’ll be disappointed.
I could live with all of that, considering the value, if it weren’t for one feature that I can’t stand. You turn pages with an upswipe. On a phone, that’s not a bad motion, but I don’t like reading on my phone. Now that I own several tablets, in various sizes, I’ve grown accustomed to the larger screen, and an upswipe on a iPad is awkward for someone, like me, with small hands.
They say an iPad app is coming in the fall, and I’m willing to give them another try at that time, but launching with an iPhone-only app was, I think, a huge mistake. I suspect many other readers will feel as I do and decide to wait. If enough of us do that, their business model will break down.
Another mistake? They don’t have any immediate plans to create an Android app. Right now, Android is where all the 7-inch tablets are. 7 inches is the perfect size for e-reading. Yes, there’s the iPad mini, but I think they are missing a huge market by sticking to iOS only.
So, it’s a good service with a decent price and workable selection. Right now it’s hampered by reading platform. It remains to be seen if they can overcome that soon enough to survive.