Oyster (company)

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Type Private
Founded 2012
Headquarters New York City, New York, United States
Industry Publishing
Website www.oysterbooks.com
Alexa rank Positive12,656 (January 2014)[1]
Launched 6 September 2013

Oyster is a streaming service for digital ebooks, available for Android, iOS, Nook HD and Kindle Fire devices. It is also available on any web browser on a desktop or laptop computer. Oyster holds over 1 million books in its library.[2]


The company was founded in 2012 by Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown, and Willem Van Lancker, and is headquartered in New York City. In October 2012, Oyster received $3 million in seed funding led by Founders Fund, a San Francisco based venture capital firm founded by Peter Thiel and Ken Howery.[3] On January 14, 2014, Oyster announced a $14 million funding round, led by Highland Capital Partners.[4]

Oyster launched on September 5, 2013, opening paid access, at $9.95 a month, via invitations available on a first-come, first-served basis. Common early criticisms included limited content and lack of multi-platform support, but its reading experience and design were widely praised. Within ten days, users had read over a million pages.[5]

On October 16, 2013, Oyster launched support for the iPad.[6] The company also removed invitations as a requirement to join, and offered a 30-day free trial to all new users. Along with an iOS app redesign, the website additionally allowed for browsing of curated book lists.[7]

In June 2014, the company expanded its services to Android and Kindle Fire devices, and in July 2014, the company launched a web reader application.[8]


Oyster offers several different reading modes, access to over 1 million titles, and book recommendations from its editorial staff. Users can also take advantage of highlighting and notes features and share their activities with friends using the platform.[9]


Oyster offers titles from over 1,600 publishers.[10] Of the Big Five publishers, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan Publishers have titles available through Oyster,[11] but a number of smaller presses have distributed their works to the service including Perseus and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.[12] Smashwords, a self-publishing platform, also distributes to Oyster and appears to be the primary publisher of works available on Oyster.[citation needed]

Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster, told a panel at Digital Book World in 2014 that the publisher had not signed up over "unresolved questions about how to avoid devaluing books and cannibalizing sales."[13] However, in May 2014, the publisher added their entire backlist at that point, consisting of about 14,000 titles, to the platform.[14]

Data Collection[edit]

On Christmas Day 2013, The New York Times reported that Oyster and Scribd were among new ebook platforms which collected data on users' reading habits.[15]

Critical Reception[edit]

Reviews of Oyster from tech outlets have been largely positive. Wired described the design as "gorgeous",[16] and PandoDaily said the app "makes Amazon look old".[17]

Some have been skeptical, though. The New Yorker's Ian Crouch wrote that the app "takes its name from a line in 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' ('the world’s mine oyster,' spoken, incidentally, by a thief)." [18]



  1. ^ "oysterbooks.com - Traffic Details from Alexa". Alexa Internet, Inc. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Ebook subscription services get a boost with help from Macmillan". The Verge. Vox Media. 
  3. ^ "Oyster raises $3 million from Founders Fund for "Spotify for books"". PandoDaily. PandoDaily. 10 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "=New Partners for Our Next Chapter". Oyster. Oyster. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 14 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Ebook subscription startup Oyster expands to iPad and opens to all; some stats from Scribd". GigaOM. GigaOM. 16 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  6. ^ "Oyster, now on your iPad". Oyster. Oyster. 16 October 2013. Retrieved 22 October 2013. 
  7. ^ "Bustle". bustle.com. 
  8. ^ Paul Sawers (24 July 2014). "Read Oyster's Ebooks in Your Browser". The Next Web. 
  9. ^ Aldrin Calimlim. "'Netflix For Books' Service Oyster Adds Support For Highlights And Notes On iOS". AppAdvice. 
  10. ^ "Oyster's Matthew Shatz on Helping Publishers Tap Next Generation of Readers". Book Business. 
  11. ^ "Publisher Macmillan Signs On With E-Book Subscription Services Oyster And Scribd". TechCrunch. AOL. 
  12. ^ "Oyster, Perseus Ink Pilot E-Book Deal". PublishersWeekly.com. 
  13. ^ Joshua Brustein. "New Subscription Model for E-Books Challenges Traditional Publishers - Businessweek". Businessweek.com. 
  14. ^ Steven Bertoni (21 May 2014). "Oyster Books Scores Stephen King, Hemingway And More In Simon & Schuster Deal". Forbes. 
  15. ^ "Technology: As New Services Track Habits the eBooks are Reading You". The New York Times. December 25, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Is This Netflix of Books the Next Big Thing In Publishing?". Wired. September 2013. 
  17. ^ "The Netflix for Books Is Here And It Makes Amazon Look Old". Pando. September 5, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Oyster iPhone App eReader: What Doe It Mean to Own A book?". The New Yorker. September 2013.