Netflix has conditioned us to have ravenous—and fickle—appetites when consuming video. Binge away on all 76 episodes of Friday Night Lights whenever you want. Not your taste? Choose from thousands of other TV shows and movies that stream on demand as part of your monthly membership. And you have nothing to lose except a little time—you can stream the entire catalog as part of your monthly fee.
A new app called Oyster employs a similar structure. For $9.95 a month, users have unlimited access to a virtual library of more than 100,000 books. There are classics like Moby Dick, but also contemporary titles by authors like David Foster Wallace and Michael Chabon. They say, “Our catalog is an ever-growing library with new titles added regularly. Our goal is to have a broad mix of content that satisfies a wide range of interests and we send regular updates to our members with notable additions to the library.
Unlike Amazon Prime (which allows members to borrow select books for free), you can check out more than one book at once. To initially download the book, you need to connect to their site through the Web. But once the title is downloaded, you needn’t be online to read the book—connectivity is only required to initially download the book.
As the current generation was raised on impeccably crafted Apple products, it’s worth mentioning that the app itself is beautifully designed. A variety of themes are available to modify the design to suit your needs, and you can easily customize the typeface and background color and texture. The interface is intuitive—it’s easy to jump around without letting the design get in the way. All of this makes for a pleasant and unobtrusive experience reading onscreen.
Right now, the Oyster is available as invitation-only for both the iPhone and iPod Touch. Oyster for the iPad will roll out later this Fall. (Unfortunately, if you have an Android, Kindle, Windows Phone, or PC, there are no current plans to add these platforms.)
Participating publishers include HarperCollins, Melville House, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Workman. But rumor has it that many other publishers are in discussions to bring their titles on board. Authors are well advised to stay on top of trends like these for how users consume books. After all, if your book is readily available, it has a better chance of getting read.