oysterOyster, the all-you-can-read ebook service was updated yesterday with a dedicated iPad app. They also added a free 30-day trial. As you may remember, I wasn’t impressed with Oyster when it was first announced. Have I changed my mind? I re-upped my subscription to check them out and decide.

The short and answer is yes, and no. Yes, I think the service has been improved considerably. Will I continue my subscription? Probably not.

Adding an iPad app was a big step, and it makes the service lots more worthwhile. That said, the app still needs improvement. It’s clearly intended to be used mainly in portrait orientation. When you shift it to landscape, there’s a single column down the middle, which is the same width as the portrait view. That’s bad iPad app design. My iPad is in landscape orientation at least as often as portrait, if not more so. The single, narrow column wastes screen real estate and doesn’t look appealing.

My other gripe is the emphasis on themes, at the expense of customization. I like the font choice of the “Standard” theme (shown above), and the background color of the Crosby theme. I’m not nearly as fond of the font choice of Crosby. Right now there’s no way to mix and match. Even most of the various ebook store apps (which are generally limited in features) allow readers to change both background color and font.

I understand that Oyster is trying to set themselves apart, and there is a certain appeal to the simplicity of theme choices, but I doubt I’m alone in being spoiled by apps which give me more freedom of choice.

The 30-day trial was a much-needed feature, especially if Oyster was to have any hope of competing against Scribd. If Oyster adds an Android version (which they are working on), they will attract a larger pool of potential customers.

Which would I choose: Oyster or Scribd? Well, I’m working on a follow-up article on Scribd, which I’ll be posting soon. Right now, for me, I choose neither. Both apps have, for me, fatal flaws. If I were advising someone who wasn’t as picky about their reading app experience, I’d still have to recommend Scribd, because of both the lower price and availability on both iOS and Android.


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