Oyster Opens Ebookstore

oysterWith all Big Five publishers on board, Oyster launches an ebookstore that puts it into closer competition with major retailers like Amazon.

Readers can still sign up for the start-up’s subscription program, which offers unlimited access to over 1 million ebooks for $9.95 a month. But now, all of those titles plus about 100,000 more will be available for individual purchase.

Hachette and Penguin Random House have so far stayed out of the subscription model for ebooks altogether, and both say their participation in Oyster’s new retail venture doesn’t signal a change of heart.

But Oyster’s ambition to gain a more central position in the ebook market aligns with publishers’ interest in diminishing the one Amazon already occupies.

Much more.

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What Oyster’s Retail Launch Says about Amazon (TheStreet)
With its new ebookstore, Oyster is hoping to capitalize on the return to agency ebook pricing that’s now taking hold in the market. And with publishers still hungry for alternative distribution channels, one observer sees the new competition as one hint that Amazon is “more vulnerable than it has been in years.”

Why Oyster’s Retail Launch Isn’t about Amazon (Ink, Bits & Pixels)
Taking a different tack, another industry watcher sees Oyster’s new retail venture primarily as a bid to keep its subscriber base intact and growing. Pointing out that Scribd offers both an ebook subscription program as well as an a la carte bookstore, the move, in this view, is more about bringing Oyster up to speed than about competing with Amazon.

HarperCollins to Restore Agency Pricing (Pub Lunch)
According to an advance notice HarperCollins gave its distribution partners recently, the publisher is requiring all ebook retailers but Apple (which is immune following a court-ordered injunction) to cease discounting its titles by Tuesday next week. This could mean HarperCollins has reached a new contract with Amazon, but Publishers Lunch explains why it’s possible the news might signal a looming battle instead.

ePubDirect Rebrands (The Bookseller)
Relaunching as “Vearsa,” ePubDirect touts an expanded range of services that goes beyond global ebook distribution to include data analytics, sales tracking and other content technology solutions.
Related: Vearsa CTO Joe Lennon on Content Authoring Technologies

ProQuest Buys Course Materials Platform (Infodocket)
ProQuest acquires SIPX, a digital course materials platform that helps students save money by directing them to content already available in their universities’ library systems.

Literary Hub Goes Live (Guardian)
The website jointly spearheaded by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature, launches with a range of editorial content provided by publishers, booksellers and other partners. Literary Hub aims to be a curated forum for literary culture and writing.
Related: New Ebook Discovery Efforts Differ on Means

Does E-Reading Suffer from Poor Design? (Pub Perspectives)
Even though many digital reading platforms already go to great lengths to offer what they consider to be a well-designed e-reading experience, one designer thinks most haven’t gone far enough. This essay is regrettably short on specifics but still offers food for thought for the future of UX in e-reading.

Amazon Retains Rights to Buy NYC Real Estate (NYPost)
Amazon currently leases 470,000 square feet at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York, a site that some speculated it would use to test a retail location last holiday season. That never came to pass, but Amazon reportedly still has the option to buy the building should its owner ever choose to sell it.

Best-Selling Ebook Prices Rise (DBW)
The average price of a best-seller continues to climb for a second week even as the top three titles don’t budge from their positions in last week’s list. That includes the Paula Hawkins thriller The Girl on the Train, which rounds out its tenth week at No. 1


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