You can call Oyster the Netflix for books, but founders Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown and Willem Van Lancker want to bring something more to ebook reading. The startup aims to be the first real subscription service for books. When it comes to digital entertainment content, you can either buy everything you want or subscribe to an unlimited service. Yet, ebook offerings are still behind. Oyster will fix that.
The New York-based company announced today that it has closed a $3 million round of financing led by Founders Fund with participation from SV Angel, Founder Collective, Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, Chris Dixon, Sam Altman and others.
When the service launches, it will go a bit further than a simple library by trying to select great books for its users and providing community features to increase user retention. Instead of focusing on the staid old publishing industry, Oyster is trying to improve reading in general.
“I initially became fascinated by the transition from the print book to digital while working on a research project at Duke,” said Eric Stromberg, CEO and co-founder of Oysterover, in a phone interview. “Our team loves to ask the question, ‘What will the future of books look like?’ We want to bring books to the center of your life, and inspire you to read all the books you wish you’d read,” he continued.
Focusing on reading means that a few innovative features will set the product apart. Oyster won’t carry the entire catalog of a publisher. “We don’t put every book on the platform. We say, ‘Look, here are the great books we want to put on the platform,’” Stromberg said. Books are curated algorithmically and by real people.
Of course there is Amazon’s lending library for Kindle owners. But you can only borrow one book at a time and many popular books are not available. Oyster should be more attractive, even though it remained very mysterious about its content deals.
“We have several deals in place with several great publishers,” Stromberg said. The startup will share its revenue with publishers based on the number of times their book is read.
Oyster is focusing on smartphone apps and wants to provide a better reading app on those devices than existing reader apps. For example, unlike Kindle’s app, readers will be able to start a new book from within the app, because there is no in-app purchase involved. Community features won’t be restricted to the website, either. When asked about potential tablet apps, Stromberg didn’t have anything to share… yet.