E-bookworms now have one less option. Oyster, which launched its “Netflix for books” app two years ago, announced in a blog post that it will close down the service by early 2016. A Google representative confirmed that “much of the Oyster team is joining Google Play Books.”
Re/code first reported that co-founders Eric Stromberg, Andrew Brown, and Willem Van Lancker have been acqui-hired by Google. The tech giant hasn’t detailed what their new roles will be.
Oyster, which raised $17 million in funding according to CrunchBase, had no comment on the hiring. In a statement, a company representative said the app’s users will be emailed more information soon.
As an Oyster reader, rest assured, nothing is changing regarding your account today. The existing Oyster service will be sunset in early 2016. If you’ve purchased a book or are an Oyster Unlimited subscriber you will receive an email regarding your account in the next few weeks. You will be able to access and read purchased books indefinitely. If you would like to request a refund at any point please email email@example.com.
Oyster Unlimited cost $9.95 a month and its chief rival was Scribd when it launched in September 2013. Competition became even more fierce when Amazon started its own e-book subscription service in July 2014.
Oyster then expanded its business model to start selling titles not included in its Unlimited catalog.
Though Oyster launched with a challenging business model in an industry with a sole dominant player, its app managed to set itself apart from Kindle with several features. Even though I already owned a large Kindle library, I quickly became an Oyster fan because I liked its user interface a lot more (especially after it introduced Lumin, which adjusts screen color based on the time of day) and appreciated its curated book lists, essays, and large selection (I also enjoyed having an alternative to Amazon because of my aversion to their workplace ethics).
Unfortunately, even a great user experience and team that is obviously made up of bonafide bibliophiles is not enough to guarantee success in the online book industry. Hopefully Oyster’s team will continue to do interesting things for fans of mobile reading (and give me a way to export the 17 book lists I just finished organizing on its app).