Bookworms with e-readers or smartphones have many options for buying books. They can buy with their e-readers (through Amazon or Barnes and Noble), they can download books that are no longer copyrighted from places like Project Gutenberg, they can buy from a number of stores nobody knows about yet, or they can buy from Oyster.
Instead of building devices for reading, Oyster builds apps that are usable on all kinds of devices. Readers enjoy the simple beauty of their website and app interface. They also enjoy curated book lists that are pretty cool. You can subscribe to Oyster Unlimited, pay $9.95 per month and download unlimited books or you can buy individually priced titles. There are over 1 million titles to choose from.
But what about Oyster makes it so competitive against Amazon? Well, firstly, they are adept at cutting deals with big publishers. They have done so with the big 5 and they have a strong relationship with HarperCollins. "HarperCollins looks forward to growing its relationship with Oyster as it expands the choices it offers consumers," says Chantal Restivo-Alessi, the publisher's chief digital officer. Oyster also has the advantage of being solely focused on books. Amazon certainly can't say that, and they've had trouble hashing out the terms of their new contract with HarperCollins.
Willem Van Lancker is an Oyster co-founder and a former Google UX man. He says he wants Oyster to be the "most creative and interesting company in books." Explaining Oyster's biggest advantage over Amazon, he says "There's a search bar on Amazon, and others where you know the book you want and you go and find it. As Amazon thinks about most businesses, it's akin to a warehouse. It's that model of efficiency, but there isn't the beauty, the design, and the discovery. We really built Oyster as a book store."