Oyster, the ebook subscription service and retailer, adds a new feature to its e-reading platform that adjusts the color and brightness of mobile users’ screens in order to improve the e-reading experience.
Called Lumin, the software decreases the amount of blue light emitted by LED screens, which some recent research has suggested can be harmful to readers’ eyes in dark environments and even frustrate sleep cycles.
“Oyster users love reading at night,” the company’s co-founder and CPO Willem Van Lancker told Digital Book World.
Reading activity on the platform peaks between 9 and 10pm, Van Lancker said, and 40% of reading overall occurs after 8pm, “so it’s a top priority for us to deliver the best experience for reading after the sun has set.”
Lumin aims to help Oyster users read at night with less strain by replacing the amount of blue light with a softer, amber light. While backlit e-ink screens are typically thought to be less harsh than those of smartphones or tablets, Oyster’s technology purports to cut the amount of blue light emitted by both types devices at least in half.
Oyster developed Lumin in-house and has filed patents for other components of its e-reading platform that Van Lancker says “reflect the fresh perspective we take to app development.”
While its subscription ebook competitor Scribd has added audiobooks and digital comics in a bid to attract consumers of other forms of media, Oyster has dug its heels in on ebooks. The new feature squares with the company’s stated commitment to offering the best e-reading experience on the market, regardless of device (or, now, lighting).
Oyster is hardly alone in its bid to deliver a premium user experience for ebook readers. “With Lumin,” Van Lancker says, “we want to make reading on Oyster more comfortable and enjoyable for our existing users, and show readers who might have been skeptical about reading on their phones and tablets the advantages of reading on Oyster”—a similar objective to the one Kobo cited for the launch of its latest device, the Glo HD, earlier this year.
In the meantime, the future of the subscription model for ebooks, in which Oyster is a leader alongside Scribd and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, remains a subject of scrutiny and debate within the industry.
This April Oyster launched an a la carte ebookstore featuring titles from each of the Big Five publishers, three of which participate in the subscription model. For the first time last week, the Association of American Publishers released survey data on revenue from subscription ebooks suggesting that that segment of the ebook market remains modest, with $13.5 million in revenue in 2014. Subscription-based revenue for the fast-growing market for digital audio, by comparison, clocked in at $29.8 million.
Oyster says it has no new information yet regarding its plans to expand internationally (the company hired a CFO in March to help it pursue further growth) saying it’s “completely focused on building the best experience for readers in the U.S.”
Update: This post has been corrected to reflect that reading overall on Oyster peaks between 9 and 10pm, rather than 40% of reading activity peaking within that one-hour block, as earlier stated.