One of the most elusive arms of digital publishing has been a viable solution for Netflix-style subscription-based reading. With everything from freemium models to all-you-can-eat reading, solutions providers, publishers, and reading consumers have struggled to find a model that works for everyone.
In September, New York-based Oyster launched an invitation-only beta period for iPhone only that seemed to be taking subscriptions in the right direction. Currently priced at $9.95 per month for unlimited online reading and up to ten offline titles per month, Oyster has also added an iPad app that takes full advantage of the additional screen space over the iPhone. The public launch of Oyster subscriptions went live yesterday, offering the public access to a catalog of over 100,000 titles.
But the key issue that plagued subscription-based reading from the start seems to still be a problem, which may affect customers and publishers alike. When companies like 24Symbols introduced this model, very few publishers were willing to take a risk on a model that may or may not result in due compensation for their authors and their bottom lines. As a result, the publishers who were willing to take a chance on this new revenue stream often offered up only their back list titles, and some reviews of the launch have stated that this seems to be the case as of now.
The iPad app only works with iOS 7, but users of previous versions can view the iPhone version of the app on their tablets. They will still have to request the invite, as the app is the older beta model. All in all, the layout and aesthetic of the app are appealing, but only user feedback will determine whether or not this is finally a solution that works for subscription-based reading. New users can enjoy a 30-day free trial of the service before deciding to join.