Oyster, a digital book delivery service, began rolling out its iPhone app yesterday to selected subscribers with a buffet-style approach to books for $9.95 a month.
Taking its name from Shakespeare's famous line in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" -- "the world's mine oyster" -- the service targets the insatiable readers among us. Oyster managed to secure up to 100,000 titles and wrangled in publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman, Smashworld, and even one of the "Big Six" -- HarperCollins.
The idea is nothing revolutionary from what some libraries are already offering and what Amazon has made available to their Prime Users ($79.99/yr). Amazon Prime members can already borrow digital books on PC and Kindle. The main difference is that on Prime, users may only check out one book a month, but Oyster lets you read as many as you want.
From our first glance, the service seems to offer some premium selections such as "Life of Pi," the works of Michael Crichton, Jack London, and a couple titles from the Tolkien collection. There is even a social aspect with a book recommendation function and the ability to keep tabs on what your friends are reading. Don't worry, there is a privacy feature in case you don't want people to discover your obsession with a certain novel or genre.
The app may or may not be a good buy for the casual reader, depending on their consumption, but for the literary die-hards it is a steal. Rather than otherwise spending $10-20 per title, you can access as many as you want for the entire month for one price. Of course the downside is that you won't actually own the book.
Oyster is only available by special invitation and you can request yours here. Let us know what you think if you're already invited.