Review: Oyster, OverDrive, & Other eBook Apps

Different distribution models are being pursued in the eBook app market. Oyster, a brand new eBook app, is using a subscription-based model similar to Netflix or Spotify; the Oyster user pays a monthly subscription ($10 per month), which enables the user to download and read as many eBooks as they desire. Exploration and discovery are emphasized in the app: the app’s home page enables users to easily browse, every book has a “related” tab that shows users similar titles, there are a number of curated and edited booklists, and there’s a social media/Oyster community component enabling users to see what titles their friends like. Content is one of the big questions, though, among the big publishers, HarperCollins’s books are available on Oyster.

OverDrive Media Console’s distribution model is to offer eBooks to patrons for free, but limits how many users can simultaneously access a particular title. In OverDrive’s model, a user’s local public library determines what content is available by purchasing licenses to individual eBook titles. How many licenses the library purchases determines how many copies of the eBook are available to patrons. Just like their physical counterparts, if a patron discovers the eBook they are interested in is currently checked out, they will not be able to access it immediately; the user can place a hold on it for future access. The app isn’t as attuned to exploration and discovery as the Oyster app; there are new book and curated book lists, but the app is more centered on catalog searching.

The classic model of eBook distribution is the reader pays for the eBook they wish to read on a book-by-book basis, and uses the eBook app tied to the marketplace they used to make the purchase. Books purchased on Amazon are read on the Kindle app, Barnes & Noble purchases are read on the Nook app, and iTunes Store purchases are read on the iBooks app.

These distribution models, of course, are centered on the consumer eBook industry, but what type of format will be the most successful in the legal eBook industry? How much carryover will there be? OverDrive is already instituted with Lexis eBooks—which we’ll cover on Thursday, but would an Oyster-like subscription-model be successful? How could a law library fit in to the more direct-to-consumer models, like Amazon’s, Barnes & Noble’s, and iTunes’s?

Update: Scribd has just announced the release of their own Oyster-like eBook subscription model. More can be read on this here and here.

Facebook & Scribd: Share your feeds and your reads!

An interesting post on Facebook‘s official blog this morning touted  “A New Chapter in Reading with Friends“.  Being librarians and avid readers, our interest was immediately piqued.  The news that followed, was interesting to say the least.  The Facebook has expanded its instant personalization offerings in a new partnership with Scribd.  And so, the world’s largest social network meets the world’s largest social publisher.  For readers and publishers, this could be a marriage made in heaven.

Before we talk about Scribd, which the iBraryGuy team loves, let’s talk about what is happening with Facebook.  Starting today, if you visit Scribd while logged into Facebook, you will get personalized reading recommendations based on what your friends are sharing and your own Facebook likes.   Should you come across something that grabs you, you will be able to click the Like button and share it with your friends. This interaction between Facebook and Scribd is designed to personalize your reading experience.  Pretty cool!

But some of you may not be familiar with Scribd.  You really should be.  Scribd is hot!  As we mentioned above, it is the world’s largest social publishing and reading site. Their vision is “to liberate the written word, to connect people and organizations with the information and ideas that matter most to them.”  Using Scribd, you can turn virtually any file (PDF, Word, PPT) into a web document and share it through such connected sites such as Facebook , Twitter and even Google.   From books to presentations, Scribd users are sharing almost 60,000 items daily!  There’s a lot to read and, thanks to this partnership with Facebook, it just got easier to find!

Facebook’s instant personalization initiative has been embraced by some and villified by others.  Whether it is just an example of how the Web can bring you more of what truly interests you or a more insidious strike against our individual and collective privacy remains to be seen.  What we can say is that as a program, Facebook is pressing ahead with it.  This particular area of instant personalization is one that interests us as librarians and Scribd users.  Frankly, we are excited by the possibilities!  The motto behind the initiative is that “the web is better with friends”.  We are hoping it is better with friends who like to read and write as mucha s we do!