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Ars Test Drives the "Netflix For Books"

timothy posted 1 year,13 days | from the ten-dollars-a-month-forever dept.

Books 108

Ars Technica reviewer Casey Johnston gives a mildly positive review to the Oyster book-rental app (and associated site), which intentionally tries to be for books what Netflix has become for movies: a low-price, subscription-based, data-sifting source of first resort. For $10 a month, users can read any of the books in Oyster's catalog (in the range of 100,000, and growing), and their reading habits are used to suggest new books of interest (with some bum steers, it seems, at present). It's iOS-only for now, with an Android version expected soon. I've only grudgingly moved more and more of my reading to tablets, but now am glad I have; still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription.

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Looks familiar (4, Insightful)

fibonacci8 (260615) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792289)

It's like a library, but we charge money for it.

Re:Looks familiar (3, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792323)

It's like a library, but we charge money for it.

There aren't any free libraries - even if you're not paying for them in any way, somebody is.

If Oyster gets a good selection of tech books, keeps them updated, and has a linux viewer, then I'd sign up for $10/mo, sure, especially if I can get some childrens' books too. I own several hundred pounds of 10+-year-old tech books and nobody "can ever take them away from me". Great ... somebody please come take them away from me.

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792357)

so what you're saying is it's like a library, but we charge YOU for it.

Re:Looks familiar (2)

msobkow (48369) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792431)

And take away all your books as soon as you stop paying.

So not quite like a library.

Re:Looks familiar (3, Insightful)

shmlco (594907) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793207)

I sort of see this as a way to read a bunch of "paperbacks" that you might not want to keep anyway. If you find something really good you can always buy it elsewhere.

Re:Looks familiar (4, Interesting)

LihTox (754597) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793669)

If we're talking about a lending library, then they take away your books after 3 weeks, even IF you continue to be a member.

Our public library has something very similar running already: there are a number of ebooks and audiobooks available for 7 or 21-day loans, for free. It was kind of neat this summer when I was on vacation in another country, and still able to check out a book from the library. :)

Re:Looks familiar (2)

rhodium_mir (2876919) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794663)

If we're talking about a lending library, then they take away your books after 3 weeks, even IF you continue to be a member.

My local library allows me to renew online indefinitely as long as nobody has placed a hold on the book. I currently have two books that I've had checked out since April of 2012.

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792385)

so, your tax dollars help support the public libraries in your area.. and your neighbors' tax dollars support the public libraries in their areas... through interlibrary borrowing, you can use your neighbors' libraries as if they were your own.... essentially turning a growing number of the nation's public libraries into one giant library..... some of which are joining openlibrary.org, too..... yet you still want to PAY additional, every month, to use a private, for-profit library instead?

you're actually stupider than the people that started this new site.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794109)

Depends on the selection and where you live. Around here we have a ton of readers, but the library system is good enough that the selection here is going to have to be incredible to make it worthwhile.

But, for people in parts of the country that aren't as well educated and aren't as interested in reading, this might be a good deal, as the libraries there are probably not as good, and access to ebooks through the library might not be possible.

The other thing is that a service like this might be useful if they can guarantee access when you want it. I know that the local library only has a limited number of copies of digital books available, which is stupid, but it can mean waiting a rather long time for popular ebooks.

Re:Looks familiar (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44795983)

if your regular library is lacking some popular titles or enough copies of them, that you want to read... instead of complaining and doing nothing constructive... BUY the book, READ it as you wanted to, then DONATE it to the library. that does a hell of a lot more good for everyone than this shitty commercial profit-driven ''library''.

Re:Looks familiar (3, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792495)

There aren't any free libraries - even if you're not paying for them in any way, somebody is.

That's only true if you ignore total dollars. A library simply buys a book and can lend it out until it is completely falling apart for no additional cost. Without knowing how Oyster compensates the content providers, one cannot make such a simplistic comparison. The law certainly favors public libraries, in that they don't need to negotiate anything with any content provider.

Re:Looks familiar (2, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793091)

The law certainly favors public libraries, in that they don't need to negotiate anything with any content provider.

Could a public library scan a book, and loan it out online for virtual access using a reader application, as long as they restrict access to one patron at a time?

Re:Looks familiar (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793489)

Could a public library scan a book, and loan it out online for virtual access using a reader application, as long as they restrict access to one patron at a time?

A) Not without violating copyright laws.

B) That's the whole problem with public libraries and the Overdrive service. My city has as far as I know exactly ONE copy of each ebook in its inventory and a waiting list for them that's obscene. Go to the dead-tree branch libraries and they may have 2, 3, maybe more copies of the same book in physical form with more copies in other branches.

And the maddening thing is that if Overdrive was set up properly, multiple ebook copies would be less trouble than multiple physical copies. I can think of several possible ways that it could be done profitably if the whole publishing/distributing world wasn't so insistent on setting their own rules based on pre-electronic concepts.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793561)

My city has as far as I know exactly ONE copy of each ebook in its inventory and a waiting list for them that's obscene.

Our library has multiple copies for popular books, but the waiting list is still obscene. The worst part is that you can only have 10 Overdrive "holds" at once, so your pipeline can easily dry up if you aren't strategic. Fortunately, we are a family of four and only my daughter and I use the Kindle :)

Re:Looks familiar (0)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794115)

Only 10? Ouch, my library allows me to check out 25 books at a time. And that's actively checked out, not ones that I have on hold. I'm guessing the libraries aren't as well funded where you live.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,12 days | (#44795941)

The Overdrive thing is definitely not as well funded as the brick-and-mortar stuff. And as much as I prefer the Kindle to physically driving over to the library, I have to agree that the whole ebook library thing is only half-baked at this point. I'd hate to see them throw too much more money at it, since that money will obviously come from the physical collection.

Re: Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44793301)

> for no additional cost

That's only true if you ignore staff, building maintenance and other such expenses.

Re: Looks familiar (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793549)

Actually you raise a good point - libraries aren't simply for borrowing books: they also have reference books, usually offer audio/video media loans, and provide a public space. Still, one could probably devise a straightforward metric - something like cost per book borrowed - to compare the two models.

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44793897)

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who runs a library branch here in Canda (Nova Scotia). We have quite a good ebook lending system thru the libraries here (both my wife and I use it a lot) but it's more expensive for libraries (and hence tax payers) than paper. I can't remember the exact numbers but effectively once the library has "loaned" out an ebook a number of times (I think 20) they have to buy a new copy. Whereas with the paper book they keep it until it is too damaged (they reckon on about 80 loans before it's done).
There are also stupid rules about ebooks - all enforced by publishers apparently (no surprise):
  - They can't loan out the same ebook to multiple people at the same time. So there are waiting lists for an ebook - though I guess it helps control costs as a side benefit
  - Publishers deliberately put "holes" in their series availability - e.g. in a 6 book series you might be missing books 3 & 4. The only solution is to go buy them (or go paper I guess).
  - Some publishers refuse to let libraries have their ebooks.

I looked at the Oyster site - looked neat but I'd need to be able to see the catlogue before considering using it and iphone only sucked. I'd want it on my kindle for sure - seems odd not to target the prime ebook reader really

Re:Looks familiar (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794005)

I was similarly puzzled by a seeming total lack of support for eInk devices. I prefer to read on those (or paper!).

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44797813)

I was similarly puzzled by a seeming total lack of support for eInk devices. I prefer to read on those (or paper!).

Are there any eink devices that can run third party apps?

Their system requires a reader app to ensure that you can only access books if you have kept up with your subscription fees.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,12 days | (#44798203)

Overdrive manages library lending through various e-readers, so I know it is technically possible. Kindles have "Active Content", but I have no idea how much capability these apps are allowed to have - my impression is that they are quite limited. My rooted Kindle can run anything you compile for it, but they certainly can't depend on that.

Re:Looks familiar (2)

CRCulver (715279) | 1 year,13 days | (#44795167)

A library simply buys a book and can lend it out until it is completely falling apart for no additional cost.

True in some countries, but not in others. In Finland, libraries must pay the authors of the books they loan out an annual fee to compensate for lost sales.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,12 days | (#44797453)

Yes, my apologies - I was being very US-centered. Copyright is obviously different everywhere. In the US, public libraries have something of a religious quality associated with them.

Re:Looks familiar (1, Redundant)

mcgrew (92797) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792499)

There aren't any free libraries - even if you're not paying for them in any way, somebody is.

The money comes from your taxes, so they're free like freeways are free. The one here is excellent, no way will I ever rent books. You're paying for that library anyway, use it.

Re:Looks familiar (3, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793579)

The one here is excellent, no way will I ever rent books. You're paying for that library anyway, use it.

I don't think I've ever borrowed a book from the local libraries as an adult. They have pretty much nothing I'm interested in (too esoteric) or anything that would be useful for work (they have six books on beginning photoshop, but there are two guys in town who use git, so nothing on that). Plenty of pulp fiction and childrens' books, but even their interlibrary loan is really weak (I used to ask things like, "can you get me a book on sword metallurgy?" / "no", and eventually gave up). By time I drive there and back, many of the books on Amazon used are within a dollar of being cheaper too.

And, yes, I do have to pay for the 'privilege' of having these libraries. Score one for the pop-culture junkies.

Re:Looks familiar (0)

mcgrew (92797) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793637)

That's sad, the library here is excellent and has a wide ranging interlibrary program, there are few books you can't get. I'd hate to be stuck in your town.

Re:Looks familiar (3, Informative)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794689)

but even their interlibrary loan is really weak (I used to ask things like, "can you get me a book on sword metallurgy?" / "no", and eventually gave up)

That's not really how ILL works. You have to request a specific title. (Try Worldcat [worldcat.org] to find one.) My local library was able to get me anything I asked for that was in a library collection in the U.S. -- I was doing some historical research and asked for some pretty oddball texts.

If you go in with a title and the librarians won't look it up to see if it's available for ILL, they're not doing their job: send a note to your county or city library director and your councilperson.

That said, yes, if I think I might look at a book twice, I'll often just purchase a used copy from Powell's. (Certainly not from the the evil twits at Amazon.)

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796853)

So maybe you could buy a book or two on git and give them to the library after you read them.
Then, if a couple of other people check those out, maybe the library will see there is a demand bigger than 2 people, and pick up some others, or maybe you could suggest other topics they might want to cover.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,12 days | (#44799245)

They have pretty much nothing I'm interested in (too esoteric) ... (I used to ask things like, "can you get me a book on sword metallurgy?" / "no", and eventually gave up).

This leaves me wondering why you felt compelled to comment, since it tells me little about the quality of your library system and more than I wanted to know about how 'esoteric' you are. The tone of your comment almost suggests a certain pride in how you 'tested' them with a request you likely knew beforehand would be difficult to fulfill, thus giving you 'justification' to find them wanting. Sword Metallurgy? In the 21st century? Really? Why not something more relevant like "Sextant Repair for Dummies" or "101 Embossing Patterns for your Leather Buggywhip". Or the ever popular "Sliderule Cookbook"? You're probably an intelligent person, so I suspect you knew from the start that a better source for information on Sword Metallurgy would likely be found at a nearby college or university, particularly one with specialized collections in your area of interest.

Here's a challenge for you: Think about what the purpose of a Public Library is. (Hint: Not to be there just for you, to cater to your particular esoteric needs). Think about what material they don't have might be *generally* useful and MAKE A SUGGESTION. My local library is pretty receptive to recommendations and welcomes them enthusiastically, though their limited budget means they favor materials likely to be of interest to most patrons. Tell them how they could improve their interlibrary loan system to make it easier to get materials of a less general nature. In my state (CT), I have access to the holdings of libraries statewide. With a little extra effort, I can search the holdings of non-public libraries (universities, private collections, etc). In either case, the requested materials are delivered to my local library and can be returned there without requiring a long drive. If that's not possible where you live, try to make it happen. Not just for yourself, but for those in your community who might benefit as well. Make it happen rather than sniffing haughtily about how useless your library is and taking 'holier than thou' swipes at 'pop-culture junkies'. In a democratic society, your community is what you make it.

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44793365)

There already is such a thing, but slightly more expensive. Safari Books Online, works with any machine that has a reasonably up to spec web browser it's basically a near complete library of O'Reilly, and Pearson books.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794131)

And for those of us lucky enough to have a good library, we have access to much of the Safari library. It's kind of annoying because it's web only, but it's still a great resource that some public libraries offer.

I personally prefer to buy books from O'reilly and Smashwords when I can, because of the lack of DRM. O'reilly is nice in that I can use dropbox to download updated copies of my books.

Re: Looks familiar (1)

Gekke Eekhoorn (27027) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794525)

Safaribooks already does that, and cheaper too. You even get tokens for watermarked drm-free offline versions.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

DrXym (126579) | 1 year,13 days | (#44795143)

There aren't any free libraries - even if you're not paying for them in any way, somebody is.

Sure but now you're paying for 2 libraries.

Re:Looks familiar (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792415)

ZOMG!!! Pay for something!?!?!?! That's fucked up. Only I deserve money for providing a service... no one else!

Re:Looks familiar (5, Interesting)

artor3 (1344997) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792417)

The added value that you're paying for comes from the recommendation system. I haven't tried it, since I don't have any iOS devices, but if it works well it could be worthwhile.

If you don't want to pay, there are still libraries, not to mention plenty of sites with free ebooks.

Re:Looks familiar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44793905)

The added value that you're paying for comes from the recommendation system. I haven't tried it, since I don't have any iOS devices, but if it works well it could be worthwhile.

If you don't want to pay, there are still libraries, not to mention plenty of sites with free ebooks.

Still, it seems overpriced. For electronic versions of publications, packets are still being parsed out as if it's gold dust. With my schedule, two novels or one exposition per month would be a good run when it comes to personal best efforts. Being focused only on themselves, their price point seems reasonable when the customer doesn't have much else to buy.

Focking economies of scale, do they know how it works?

Re:Looks familiar (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792477)

Not only that, but many public libraries already offer time-limited digital copies of their books for FREE.
So it's exactly like what many libraries are already doing, except private sector CASH GRAB.

p.s. Yeah, yeah [citation needed]. The Austin (Texas) Public Library does this. I haven't used it personally, but I've helped my family members set it up.

Re:Looks familiar (2)

kaliann (1316559) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792879)

Absolutely true. Many libraries use programs like Overdrive to "lend" digital media to anyone with a valid library card (sign in with card number on library's website).

Ebooks or audiobooks can be downloaded onto various internet-connected devices. As long as you are connected, you can check out a book from thousands of miles away, 24/7 (excepting maintenance).

I personally use the audiobooks as entertainment while driving (iPhone) and crank through plenty of ebooks on my tablet (Android).

Libraries are free to use as a public service. Might as well make the most of them!

The current library setup I have access to is far too convenient for me to pay a subscription for the recommendation service.

Re:Looks familiar (2)

demonlapin (527802) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793053)

Depends on your library. Mine has a terrible selection of ebooks, just a few hundred and most of them junk. I'd pay for a good library.

Re:Looks familiar (2)

mean revision (2542028) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792947)

I've tried public ebook libraries and the UI & selection have typically been dreadful. I would happily pay $10/month for something better.

Unfortunately, for me something better has to include some eink reader.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

cellocgw (617879) | 1 year,12 days | (#44799185)

I've tried public ebook libraries and the UI & selection have typically been dreadful. I would happily pay $10/month for something better.

Unfortunately, for me something better has to include some eink reader.

Can you explain what that means? You expect a rental contract to include the reader? Does NetFlix give you a free DVD player/box to watch their stuff on? Does Comcast give you a free video monitor?

Re:Looks familiar (5, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793105)

It's like a library, but we charge money for it.

Yes, but it is also like Netflix, so it will not have any book that you are actually interested in reading.

Re:Looks familiar (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,12 days | (#44799353)

So start a business catering to the vast hipster audience clamoring for more interesting material. Based on all the exasperated "Netflix has nothing I would ever want to watch" comments, you should make a mint.

um (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792297)

rental e-books that don't support e-readers. what

Re:um (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794151)

That was my reaction. The iPad is not an ereader, you might as well just read on a laptop as the iPad screen has most of the same drawbacks. Sure, it's slightly more convenient, but not by much.

The least they could do is support ADE which is a bit more widely available and perfectly suitable for library use.

Re:um (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | 1 year,12 days | (#44798245)

That was my reaction. The iPad is not an ereader, you might as well just read on a laptop as the iPad screen has most of the same drawbacks. Sure, it's slightly more convenient, but not by much.

Actually, reading on the iPad is a lot easier than reading on the laptop. Ignoring better battery life, heat and other technology related issues, the formfactor of a tablet in general makes it easier to hold. Especially since there's no keyboard in the way. Of course, that's why there's convertible laptops to begin with, which get you into the tablet form factor.

A book is more traditionally in the "tablet" style formfactor which makes it easy to use singlehandedly.

In Soviet Android Reader... (-1)

dryriver (1010635) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792317)

...Books disappear YOU when you stop paying.

Technical selection? (1)

pieisgood (841871) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792361)

I could see this taking off around college campuses if they offered the service for technical books. If they offered math, science, engineering ect... they could have every student on campus paying ten dollars a month for a year. They'd also have my business as well. Sometimes certain books don't cut it and maybe one book covers a subject better than another, having to option to work in both without spending 200$ is attractive; even if I don't get to keep them at the end of the day.

Re:Technical selection? (3, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793115)

I could see this taking off around college campuses if they offered the service for technical books. If they offered math, science, engineering ect... they could have every student on campus paying ten dollars a month for a year.

The academic publishing companies and authors would never go for this.

Unless they have a trick up their sleeves that lets them use the content without special permission or requires content providers to license in a scalable way; the $200+ shiny new edition college textbooks are not likely to wind up there.

Re: Technical selection? (2)

pruss (246395) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793251)

The publishers wouldn't like it, but scholarly authors might well. Many of us care much more about being read than about making money off our books. I'd give all my books away for free if I could, but unfortunately professional reputation requires publishing with major possess and the presses won't allow it.

Re:Technical selection? (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793505)

Honestly, the publishing companies might not like it but they couldn't stop them legally. If you buy a book, you can then lend it to people or even rent it out to as many people as you want (one at a time, of course) without raising any issues. This has been tested before with video stores. Movie companies first hated them as they saw each rental as a lost sale. Then, they realized that people would rent movies they wouldn't have bought at all - thus generating more revenue.

Of course, what the textbook publishers WILL do is what they always do. Change a few words, update the revision, and then lobby universities to REQUIRE the new edition. Since Oyster would need to buy the same number of books that it would rent out and then those books couldn't be used next year (since the new new edition will have just came out), the "rent for $10 a month" model will be a money losing proposition requiring Oyster to either: 1) Give up renting textbooks, 2) Charge much more for textbooks (making renting them less attractive) or 3) Go out of business. All 3 options would be "wins" as far as the textbook publishers are concerned.

Re:Technical selection? (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793521)

Never mind my previous comment. I just realized that Oyster is an eBook lending service, not a PHYSICAL book lending service. So, of course, textbook publishers could deny them access to their content or sue them if they created eBook versions of text books without permission.

(This is what happens when you've been offline a few days, are trying to catch up on Slashdot, and comment hastily without fully reading everything.)

Android support... (1)

Xenx (2211586) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792411)

I don't get how they could just completely ignore such a large community. I imagine it wouldn't need too much (if any) real tweaking per device. They don't even bother addressing the lack of support.

Re:Android support... (1)

pieisgood (841871) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792433)

It's currently invite only anyway. So they're not looking to expand too quickly, then have an audience that finds there selection lacking and immediately and irrevocably denounce the service all together.

Re:Android support... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792473)

Or why they show an iPhone on their home page. I'm not saying I've *never* accessed a book via my iPhone, but given the choice I'll access it via my dedicated e-reader, iPad, laptop, or desktop instead. I can't tell if they even have an iPad app which is what their primary focus should have been when it comes to apple products.

Re:Android support... (1)

berj (754323) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792783)

More money to be had maybe?

http://www.businessinsider.com/chart-of-the-day-ios-android-spenders-2013-1 [businessinsider.com]

Or maybe the developers know iOS better than they know android and they're trying to keep things simple until they know if the business has a future?

Poor maths for idiots (1)

tuppe666 (904118) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793473)

More money to be had maybe?

From your article "iOS users tracking their expenses on Toshl spent an average of $3,297 every month, 19 percent more than those on Android, who spent $2,761. There's a similar disparity in terms of income."

On Average it might be true that Apple users have 20% more expenses, but then there are six times more Android users. It is also very likely that the top sixth of Android users have more expenses than Apple, Android unlike Apple has phones at all ranges of the market, something Apple is looking to change with Apple 5c

Re:Android support... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792849)

Because the Android community is known deadbeats? That's my guess. Seriously, when a major selling point of a device is that the OS on it runs free apps that normally cost the other guy a couple of bucks but you need to be bothered by endless ads you're going to get a rep for being a deadbeat magnet. Personally, if I were putting out an app today and I had my choice between charging my user a couple of bucks or running ads? I'd go with charing for the app every time. And as a consumer I'd rather pay for an app than to have ads running on it.

Re:Android support... (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794159)

They could have used ADE and then it would be available for all of the platforms. Seems like a problem of NIH.

Actually sounds attractive, but... (4, Informative)

YutakaFrog (1074731) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792435)

I actually think I would enjoy something like this, as I'm really enjoying using Kindle on Android lately. But not to the tune of $10 / month. The thing is for the $15 / mo you pay for Netflix, you could buy one movie. You watch one movie during that month that you otherwise would have bought, and you break even. It takes you one evening, and you still have 29 more days in the month to get more than your money's worth out of it. For the $10 they want per month for this service, you can buy one paperback book. But I know very few people who read more than one book per month right now. Maybe that's just because me and a lot of the people I know are all obsessed with the huge fantasty epics for now... (*cough*BrandonSanderson*cough) But personally, I really don't think I'd sign up for more than $2 or $3 per month. Good luck to them though.

Re:Actually sounds attractive, but... (1)

Cinder6 (894572) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793345)

I have similar feelings. At present, I tend to go through 1-2 books per month, with 5 being my maximum (and a relative rarity). Even assuming 3 books/month, that means that each book is $3.33--not a bad price, but considering that it forces me to read on an iPhone/iPad instead of my Kobo, I'm still just not very interested. In fact, I'd be hard-pressed to come up with any price that would have me interested; I greatly prefer eInk to LCD and am willing to pay for it.

I do wish them well. I wish Amazon/Kobo/BN had a service like this.

Re: Actually sounds attractive, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796045)

Netflix is even better than that actually, as the streaming service is only $8 /mo and you can stream to multiple devices.

Re:Actually sounds attractive, but... (1)

technomom (444378) | 1 year,12 days | (#44796785)

Same here. I use Kindle's Lending library quite a bit. The other thing this is competing against is just plain public library lending through Overdrive.

One of the best kept secrets in New York is that all residents of New York *State* can get a New York City Public Library Card. http://nypl.org/ [nypl.org]
NYPL has one of the richest ebooks collection for lending around. Works great through Overdrive with Kindle.

$10/month is too steep. I would reconsider if the price came down to a yearly subscription of $50.

Questionable decision (-1, Flamebait)

hessian (467078) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792459)

It's iOS-only for now

Way to give those of us who don't own devices made by an ambisexual company the finger, guys.

The concept of a library (3, Insightful)

Fuzzums (250400) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792467)

"still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription."

They're not your books. You can read them as long as you pay your subscription. That's how a library works.
You not like, you not borrow book, you buy book.

Next!

Re:The concept of a library (1)

msobkow (48369) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793023)

Not like any library I've ever dealt with.

There may be a late fee if you return the book late, but they don't come to your door to retrieve it because you didn't pay a membership fee.

Re:The concept of a library (1)

hedwards (940851) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794165)

That's merely because it's not cost effective to send somebody that's making a minimum of minimum wage over to your house to retrieve the book. Around here, it's cheaper to just write off the cost of the book, or more likely send it to collections. Most of the books they lend weren't $20 new.

If it were cost effective, they probably would do so.

Re:The concept of a library (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | 1 year,12 days | (#44799521)

Wrong focus. The concept is that you have borrowing privileges as long as you are eligible. In a library system your eligibility arises from being a verifiable resident of the community, usually with a local address (so either paying taxes or paying rent to someone who is paying taxes). When you move away, your access to the library stops. Subscription based borrowing is similar - your right to borrow lasts as long as you subscribe, but your eligibility is limited only by your continued willingness and ability to pay, not by your address (obnoxious regional/national restrictions notwithstanding).

Uh huh, so it's... (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792505)

A library.

Except a library is free and doesn't install malware (also known as DRM) on my computer.

So what's the attraction again?

Re:Uh huh, so it's... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44792699)

Try going to the library when you're sitting in an airport because your flight is delayed for four hours.

Or when visiting a city you don't have a library card for.

Or when someone at work recommends a book and you know by the time you get off work, the library is closed.

Or if you have a phobia of librarians.

It's all about convenience.

Re:Uh huh, so it's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796071)

I don't have to go to the library to check out an ebook from the library.

Re:Uh huh, so it's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796941)

Free? I already pay a subscription fee for my local library: Taxes.
I have to pay that fee if I never use a single service they offer.
Thing is, I don't mind paying that fee/tax so others can get access to books, internet, movies, music, meeting spaces. It makes my neighborhood a better place.
I buy books to support the writers. I buy from the writers directly when I can...but they mostly don't want to sell me an ebook at a convention, or even on their websites. Always seems odd, as i know that they don't get much when I have to go through middlemen.

Terrible headline (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792605)

Ars Test Drives the "Netflix For Books"

Using a word that could be a noun or a verb - worse still, using two of them in succession - doesn't make for an easy-to-read headline. Especially if you initially fuck it up and write:

Ars Tests Drives the "Netflix For Books"

Just "tests" (or a hyphenated "test-drives" if you must) would have been a lot easier on the brain.

It's made worse by Ars being a contraction that looks like a typo.

The dream of an endless library (1)

FGT (2741971) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792609)

They make it sound like they offer the dream of an endless library, read any book you want, any time you want, anywhere you want for $10/mo. That does sound kind of dreamy. But they have only 100,000 books which sounds like a lot but will likely contain very few you are interested in. They only have iOS now and even there show only phone and not tablet. Android coming later. But what about eInk readers which many prefer or other devices in the future? What format are the books? I would accept only DRM-free ePub, or PDF for tech books. When they go out of business you are left with nothing. Is there a limit to how many books you have at a time? Can you opt out of them tracking your reading? I can understand how difficult it would be to get all publishers to agree to my dream. Their dream, of course, would be to implement a locked down rental system where you give them money and own nothing and there is no guaranteed future access. I'll hold on to my money until I get what I want.

Investment Opportunity (1)

wrackspurt (3028771) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792647)

A little OT but what's happening with 1st editions of collectibles. I once had close to 3K volumes and collected 1st editions, mostly early 20th c. authors. With ebooks are hardcopy 1st editions becoming a better investment? I miss having a room walled by books. It has a special ambiance.

Content? (4, Funny)

BenJeremy (181303) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792651)

Their website is about useless. How about some way I can peruse Oyster's current content offerings?

I'm a sci-fi fan, and that's what I read... if you aren't offering books in my genre, why would I want to spend money on your service, and if I have no way of knowing that you offer any books in my genre, I'm not gambling just to be disappointed by your selection.

On second thought, their web site actually makes me a bit angry. Probably because of its seemingly hipsterish pretentiousness.

U.S. only, but a lot cheaper than Safari Books (1)

De Lemming (227104) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792693)

It's a pity this is not available outside the United States... I hope it will come to Europe soon. Their FAQ states: "When will you expand beyond the United States? Book rights are regional and right now we are focused on building a best-in-class offering for the U.S. market. We don’t have a timetable for international expansion, but we are committed to growing Oyster and making it universally accessible over time."

It reminded me of Safari Books [safaribooksonline.com] , a subscription service for technical books. It was started by O'Reilly, but now contains books by a lot of other publishers like Addison Wesley and Manning. But subscription fees are considerably higher than for this new Oyster service. E.g. for an individual subscription with max. 10 books at a time in your library, you pay $28 / month or $299 / year. Obviously the value of such a service is strongly related with the content they offer. I couldn't find an overview of books Oyster offers, it would e.g. be nice to know if they have a good selection of technical books.

Re:U.S. only, but a lot cheaper than Safari Books (1)

demonlapin (527802) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793067)

The US has a huge advantage because one set of negotiations lets you distribute copyrighted work to over 300 million people. Can't do that in Europe.

Re:U.S. only, but a lot cheaper than Safari Books (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,13 days | (#44795517)

and why has the EU not created a framework for continent-wide distribution deals for television, movies, music and books yet? 50% more population in half (or less, without ak) the area... eu is a much better market than the u.s. even with the additional languages to support.

Re:U.S. only, but a lot cheaper than Safari Books (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | 1 year,12 days | (#44796709)

The US has a huge advantage because one set of negotiations lets you distribute copyrighted work to over 300 million people. Can't do that in Europe.

Don't European rights include the whole EU? EU population is over 500 million.

Re:U.S. only, but a lot cheaper than Safari Books (1)

jedwidz (1399015) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793937)

When Safari had starter plans for (IIRC) $10/mo I was right into it. Now it's just too expensive.

Moronic statement (1)

twistofsin (718250) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792813)

I've only grudgingly moved more and more of my reading to tablets, but now am glad I have; still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription.

I see this as a big benefit for people that like to read for entertainment. You aren't paying for the actual books, just access to them. For light reading (entertainment purposes) this seems like a great deal.

I'll always buy technical books I want to refer to in hard copy when I can, but I don't need a persistent copy of most of the things I read.

Re:Moronic statement (1)

twistofsin (718250) | 1 year,13 days | (#44792827)

I regret the title of my reply. I edited it out of the post, but neglected to review the title.

It's not actually moronic, and didn't mean to insult the OP.

We have this, paid by tax dollars. (1)

argStyopa (232550) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793565)

We call it "a library".

Loans out ebooks free to anyone with a library card.

And your children get absolutely nothing (3, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | 1 year,13 days | (#44793701)

So, have you ever inherited anything? Do you have a book that your grandfather used to read? A record player? A record collection? One record? What about a video tape? A car? A tvision? A set of speaker?

So if you rent your furniture, and your home, and lease your car, and your tvision doesn't last more than 5 years, and your speakers aren't worth more than a few dollars, then what exactly do you give to your children? What gets handed down?

I know, just the words: "I've got nothing, you're on your own from scratch."

Enjoy. But I like to have things that represent me; taken as a set, no one else would ever have them. And most items, aren't owned by more than a handful of people.

But if the only things you use are things that millions of others use too -- iphones, the most popular books, only the most popular movies -- then congrats, you stand out like a chinese person with a chinese phone in china. Hello kitty.

And by the way, that library of over 100'000 books...how many of them are public domain anyway? Oh yeah. Project Gutenberg. Oh yeah. Been reading on a computer for decades. Oh yeah. Just a cash grab. Oh yeah.

Re:And your children get absolutely nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44795883)

You do realize that for most people's personal libraries, their heirs would probably rather not inherit the books? Sure if you have rare/valuable first editions, etc. they might like getting the money for them, but most folks collections of a several hundred novels or outdated reference books? That's just another trip to the used bookstore/Goodwill for many heirs.

Re:And your children get absolutely nothing (1)

holophrastic (221104) | 1 year,12 days | (#44798823)

I've got four giant wooden cabinet speakers from my grandfather's father. They may or may not still work, but they make great end-tables. I'm currently using them as nightstands by the bed, which makes it look like I've spent about six thousand dollars to wire the bedroom for sound.

I've got two very old record players from two disparate grandparents. My parents wanted to sell/chuck them. I insisted on taking them. Whereas women would have nick-knacks and porcelan dolls and bowls of wicker balls lying around, I have old fashioned record players as my nick-knacks.

My first-ever remote-controlled car, from when I was eight, that I built and painted my self is around. I also have a four foot tall cast bronze statue of anubis as the first piece of art that I ever purchased. I've got a few '80's lightshow things -- like those borg-style circles and an infinity box. I also have an eleven foot wide solid wood desk that I had custom built by a dining-room table company, that will easily last for the next 200 years. It can be a desk, a boardroom table, or a dining room table for many generations to come.

It's not about what one person would want. If you're a normal family, then by the time you die there are at least 10 people below you -- children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, neices, nephews, and cousins. Heck, some of my friends have close to 50 hundred younger relatives, and one has nearly 100.

You're saying that of my 10, no one will want a big solid wood desk for anything? Or no one will want two giant 150 year-old speakers? No one will like my record of baby belluga in the deep blue sea? Swims so wild and swims so free. Heaven above and the sea below and the little white whale on the go.

Or perhaps you're specifically talking about my sports car. The engine's good for 800'000km, and I've only put on 100'000km thus far. I take care of it. I've modded it to add scissor-doors. My next mod may be equally interesting. You're saying that my nephew won't want a sports car for his 16th birthday? Perhaps with a self-driving module installed? Or a hover-upgrade?

Re:And your children get absolutely nothing (1)

internerdj (1319281) | 1 year,12 days | (#44796619)

I hope to leave my children an education so they can succeed in life, some good memories, and maybe a handful of things that remind them of the kind of person I was and how I want them to live. My parents have loads of sacred family relics that aren't to be touched or bothered. I'll take a few when they pass but like most of my generation I can't afford to run a family history museum.

Re:And your children get absolutely nothing (1)

holophrastic (221104) | 1 year,12 days | (#44798899)

If you want them to succeed in life with an education, then you'll also need to provide a time travel machine so they can go back to when an education actually paid dollars. It doesn't anymore.

But you can do, if you really value their future, is to sell your home now, and buy a large piece of land outside of the city for the same price. A farm, a country house, whatever. By the time they grow up, the city will have expanded, and that land will be worth a fortune. If they've been farming on it, you'll have given them free food, a strong work ethic, safe food, and a family life-style without commuting, horrible bosses, deadlines, and abstract craziness. They'll have it all and money too. The government will give them all sorts of tax incentives so their life costs will be much lower than everyone else's too. And as a farm, they'll be paid more to sell it. Much more.

SAcred family relics that aren't to be touched are boring. There's nothing wrong with wearing out heirlooms, as long as you're creating new ones of your own. But if you can't afford to produce any relics, and you're just another human of the times, then congratulations you've done nothing in life but replaced yourself. That's seriously uncool.

Re:And your children get absolutely nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796685)

"What gets handed down?"

The best things in life aren't things.

Re:And your children get absolutely nothing (1)

holophrastic (221104) | 1 year,12 days | (#44798985)

I didn't say things. I said handed down.

Memories get handed down.

Techniques get handed down.

Ideas get handed down.

Memories, techniques, and ideas come with heirlooms, tools, and inspirations. Those are the things which represent the non-things. They support the non-things.

Growing up through childhood, with no inspiration, results in a young adult who has no idea what he wants to do. Contrast that with a young adult who's been staring at his great grandfathers' sculptures for 10 years. Or his sportscar for 16 years. Or his sextant since before he knew what it even was.

Getting someone started in life isn't about money. It's about the drive to improve something.

So, what techniques are you handing down?

I like it (2)

Camembert (2891457) | 1 year,13 days | (#44794589)

I think it makes sense.

Yes, you already pay for a local library but the books I want to read are often not in the catalog, or when they are popular they are difficult to get. If you would read for more than $10 books per month and you are not the type who prefers to keep books, then it is sensible.

about:

>> still, I don't like the idea of having my books disappear if I don't pay a continuing subscription.

Well it is like a normal library, when you give the books back, you don't have them anymore. If you want to keep books, just buy them in whatever appearance state that you prefer..

The Winning Model will be different (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796263)

People, myself included, will not buy into this model completely until we have assurances we have purchased a 'personal copy-right' that gives us the ability to access those books we have paid for at least for our lifetime in perpetuity.

The reality is people will continue to read more and more books, and will pay more for the privildge. But if that priviledge is 're-voked' at the end of a subscription the 'perception' is that its as ephemeral as your memory and people just won't put up with that.

The reassurance doesn't cost the publishers anything, but their perception of the 're-sale' rights will be ridiculously over priced..

Its sort of like the 'Pride' people have in musical performance and the confidence they will forget them over time.

In reality People move on to new material.

And that is the 'Brand' loyalty they should be concerned about.

If people can refer back to their personal catalog.. they won't have to be convinced to buy again, or buy more from the same maker or vendor.

The obviousness of the 'first position advantage' of a publisher or maker in our mental bookshelf should be obvious.. "It sells more product" than the unknown or unremembered.

But publishers performers and vendors are too short sighted.. or to near sighted to see the obvious.

Libraries... A Radical Concept (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796503)

Hey everyone! I have an idea. Hear me out, this might be a little radical. Let's establish a public organization that keeps archives of books, magazines, and multi-media. Then, here's the kicker, we ask people to join the organization at no charge! Then, each town/county will have what I call a "branch", which is a local building to house material. If a "branch" doesn't have the material required, members can request the material from another "branch".

Members can borrow materials for a couple of weeks, then return it. All for free! Well, behind the scenes, the organization is funded largely by taxes, but those would be sop small, people will never notice them.

As technology moves forward, "branches" can loan out e-books, also for free! And, maybe we can install public computer stations at these "branches" too.

Umm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44796973)

"my books"

They aren't your books to begin with.

It's no different than movies/shows you watch on Netflix not "being yours". or ones you rent from Redbox...

you only "own" them when you buy them.

OP is a tard

Unlimited Books -- Not (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44798453)

It really should be: Unlimited looks at our limited stock of books. And it's an iPhone app, no less; presently by invitation only (oooohhh, they'll let me be special). So if you have an unlimited data connection of at least $100.00 every 30 days (more, when the real price is requested because it was unmentioned ...well...because they have itemized labels such as tax or fee) you'll be that guy by the lake reading his iPhone. Yeah, right, that location isn't internet reality and makes me laugh out loud at the marketing and sales weasels and their great cash flow idea.

Nothing appears as underhanded (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,12 days | (#44799693)

as a company that doesn't advertise it's wares (or prices, for other places) without a login. Show me what you have.

I might be interested when they have universal platform coverage.

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