On The New Yorker, an interesting look at Oyster, a service that can best be described as the Netflix for books. This is more of a lending service than actually letting you own a book, but as I don't keep every book I've read -- only special ones -- a service like this may actually work for me.
The app, which takes its name from a line in The Merry Wives of Windsor (the worlds mine oyster, spoken, incidentally, by a thief), currently gives users access to more than a hundred thousand titles for a monthly fee of just under ten bucks. (Netflix for books, as its been called.) Users tap a book to read it instantly, and can store up to ten downloads at a time to read offline. Oyster also offers recommendations based on previous selections, and allows users to share what theyve been reading on social media. (You can also turn off the social features and read privately.) Right now you need an invitation to join, but Oyster will be expanding both how many people can use it and the number of available books, and the founders say that they plan to release a version for iPad later this fall.
Since it doesnt require individual purchases, Oyster encourages browsing. As with Netflixs Watch Instantly service, chances are good that on Oyster you wont find the exact book youve been wanting to readbut you will be steered toward others that youd considered and forgotten in the past, or something new that catches your eye. (Oysters current recommendation algorithm still needs a little tweaking; many of the related books that accompany James Salters A Sport and a Pastime, for instance, are about baseball.) The service is less useful for readers who arent looking for recommendations and who know exactly what they want to read.
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