Thursday, September 24, 2015

Oyster is Going Out Of Business

Oyster is "sunsetting their service." The main takeaway from Oyster shutting down is how unsustainable the ebook subscription model is.

Subscription models are a tricky beast, because the revenue taken in must agree with the pay for authors and publishers going out. And with three major competitors, Kindle Unlimited, Scribd and Oyster all vying for attention, it made sense consumer spending would spread a little thin to cover costs.

Kindle Unlimited has been constantly changing and altering it's payment structure so it makes financial sense for both Amazon and authors. Scribd had to take drastic measures lately in completely removing the most read books to avoid the payouts.

Scribd stands to benefit the most out of Oyster's demise, if things go in their favor. The battle royale of Amazon competitors is reaching its conclusion. Companies still standing today had to go through a lot the past few years, and most have carved out their niches to survive. In the ebook subscription arena, there were too many platforms and not enough dollars and interest.

Consolidation isn't a bad thing in this case. Consumers who don't want to be in Amazon's ecosystem will be more likely to use Scribd, which will help them gain new subscribers, as well as publishers may throw more books as support. Publishers, like Macmillan, have already pledged support late last year to join the subscription race as it starts.

It is possible Scribd stands a chance, but it's a wait and see approach. Both Scribd and Oyster were more or less established with the preconception that a big company will buy them out. These services didn't need to make a sustainable business model, as much as they needed to make themselves more attractive than Amazon.

I personally enjoyed my time with Kindle Unlimited. As a reader it was great to browse and find great titles for free. As an author, The Dragon's Tear received a healthy bump in reads over the summer. I ended up cancelling my subscription, but it's because I haven't had much time to read lately. There's nothing stopping me from re-enrolling, and I probably will again when my schedule winds down a little.

Of course I can be wrong. I'm focusing on the current players in the market, instead of anticipating several giants entering with their own fully realized service. Several new articles have noted that key Oyster co-founders have found a new home with Google. The Google Play Store can be a much bigger and stable platform to have an ebook subscription service, and just improve their ebook service in general. The marketing power of Google also helps a tad.

Recently, Google expanded its YouTube service with YouTube Gaming, who is a major competitor to Amazon's Twitch platform. They, like every other tech giant, want to be the consumer's one stop shop for everything. The success of the Kindle and ebooks hasn't eluded the big companies, yet we haven't seen any big plans from them.

That doesn't mean much right now, but we'll see what happens down the road.