Oyster, the 'Netflix of books', has shut up shop barely two years after launch

OysterEric Stromberg (cofounder and CEO), Willem Van Lancker (cofounder and CPO), Andrew Brown (cofounder and CTO)

Online subscription book service Oyster is shutting up shop.

Launched to a lot of fanfare just two years ago, Oyster promised to become the “Netflix of Books” (or maybe the Spotify of books) by offering an all-your-can-read plan for just $US9.95.

And until quite recently, the prospects looked good. From a Business Insider article just this April:

The startup has signed on all of the “Big Five” publishers as well as a bunch of smaller houses, bringing hundreds of thousands of new books to the selection of 1 million titles it currently had available only for subscription download.

“Amazon paved the way in ebooks,” cofounder Willem Van Lancker told Business Insider. “We want to be the Amazon of the next 10 years. We want to build the company that takes ebooks into the next wave.”

Amazon also operates a subscription service providing “unlimited” books, which, like Oyster, is not available in Australia.

At the time that post was written, Oyster had raised millions, claimed a million plus titles and millions of readers, as well as fans amongst some important publishers:

“Since the launch of its subscription service in September 2013, Oyster has shown itself to be an innovative player in the ebook market,” HarperCollins chief digital officer Chantal Restivo-Alessi said in one press release. “HarperCollins looks forward to growing its relationship with Oyster as it expands the choices it offers consumers.”

But visitors to the Oyster blog this morning were confronted with this dreary post:

we will be taking steps to sunset the existing Oyster service over the next several months. If you are an Oyster reader you will receive an email personally regarding your account in the next few weeks. We look forward to sharing more details soon, but rest assured, your account will continue to operate normally in the meantime. If you’d like to request a refund, please contact us at [email protected]

With the “sunsetting” of Oyster, on top of the recent closure of Entitle Books, ebook-lovers are left with little choice now for subscription services outside of Amazon and Scribd.

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