Oyster May Become Google’s Pearl

Andrew AlbaneseSubscription services abound online, for music as well as video and film. In recent years, various start-ups also have vied for a role as “the Netflix for books.” Of those who’ve made a mark – Oyster and Scribd, to name two – success has proven a double-edge sword.

In early summer, Scribd announced it would cut back on the number of titles available to readers – largely because the popularity of romance novels was draining resources faster than revenues could make up. And this week, rival Oyster went even further.

“Oyster, one of the major players in the fledgling U.S. subscription e-book market, announced there would sunsetting their business, sometime in 2016. And it was later learned, in an intriguing twist, that Google had stepped in for what’s been called an ‘acqui-hire.’ In other words, Google bought the company, but not to run it; they are assuming Oyster’s liabilities, and are bringing on Oyster’s talent. Yet Google is resistant to calling this an acquisition,” reports Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer.

“It is fascinating to think about where Google could run with this,” he tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “Google has millions and millions of public domain and other books from its library project, an e-bookstore, and the best search in the world. If we’re talking about the value of search and discovery and the future of reading, think of what Google could with all that it has – and with a team like Oyster’s?”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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