Oyster Review: All-you-can-read ebooks for $9.95 per month (Verdict: Gorgeous)

Oyster Review: All-you-can-read ebooks for $9.95 per month (Verdict: Gorgeous)

Summary: Oyster is a promising iOS app (currently in private beta) that allows you to read unlimited ebooks on your iPhone -- from an impressive catalog -- for $9.95 per month. Read more for your chance to get an invite.

TOPICS: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone
Oyster Review: All-you-can-read ebooks for $9.95 per month - Jason O'Grady

I've been testing Oyster (free, App Store) for the past few days and it's an impressive little iPhone app. Many have referred to Oyster as "the Netflix of ebooks," and it's a good analogy. The app allows you to read books, from a library of 100,000 in-copyright titles, on your iPhone ala iBooks or Kindle. 

The difference is that instead of buying books individually, you can buy a subscription to Oyster for $9.95 per month and read all the books that you want on your device, just like Netflix (movies), Audible (audio books) and Spotify (music). The only catch is that the service is in private beta at the moment, so you'll need an invite code to join. The good news is that Oyster is accepting names at its website and rolling out invitations regularly. The bad news is that it hasn't announced when the service will be publicly available.

The Oyster library includes over 100,000 in-copyright titles in numerous genres from bestsellers and classics, to sci-fi and biographies. Paid subscribers select five books they might like during setup and Oyster's recommendation engine learns about what you love and hate over time based on the books you read. Oyster also offers a series of hand-curated Editor's Picks to choose from.

There's also a social component that allows you to favorite a title. If you're looking for a recommendation you can follow other users and browse their libraries. You can also share books and activity to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

In my testing I read a number of books including Good to Great to Gone: The 60 Year Rise and Fall of Circuit City by Alan Wurtzel, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely and Onward by Howard Shultz. The Oyster interface is beautiful and clean, pages are turned with a simple swipe up and you can choose between five preset reading modes with different paper colors and fonts. You can also easily change the font size and brightness. 


  • Deep catalog of 100,000 titles that's growing daily
  • Offline browsing so that you can read books on the plane and train
  • Smooth UI and beautiful design


  • HarperCollins is the only big-five publisher on the list. Oyster says it's in active conversations with all the major publishers
  • No iPad version currently, but one coming in fall
  • No multi-device sync, but this is coming with the iPad version according to Oyster

Oyster's a slick app that bookworms will appreciate and that will give Kindle and iBooks a run for their money. It's still in private beta and desperately needs an iPad version, but those will come in time.

Topics: Apple, Apps, iOS, iPhone

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  • Oyster has a long way to go

    I'm a big reader and was excited to explore the Oyster app, but I was disappointed by my experience, and I think there is a lot of room for improvement. The major problem is the lack of good content - you say there is a "deep catalog" but it seems like publishers hand picked a few well-known titles from a few years ago to highlight, most of which I have already read, and then Oyster filled up space with old books that you can easily find free anywhere else. I could not find a single big book from 2013. Or 2012, for that matter. Reading on the iPhone is terrible, and since Oyster isn't bringing exciting books to the table, I'm going to cancel my membership and stick with buying individual books as usual.
    • Thanks for the thoughtful feedback

      Hi bookworm98 -

      Eric Stromberg from Oyster here. Thanks so much for the thoughtful feedback. We're a young company and working hard to add new titles to the catalogue that satisfy a wide range of interests. We also will be releasing Oyster for iPad this Fall, which we are really excited about. We hope you'll check out Oyster again soon, and in the meantime you can always reach us at hello@oysterbooks.com. We'd love to hear from you.

      Co-founder & CEO
  • Cost!

    I'm not in the US so I guess it won't be available for me for copyright reasons. If I was there, it would be too expensive for me. At the rate I read, it's cheaper to buy books outright on Google Play or Amazon. Sadly I don't have time to read more than a couple of books a month as I have one of those job things that takes up too much of my time.

    Interesting comparison with Netflix as well, isn't that cheaper on your side of the pond?
  • Not feeling it

    As an avid book reader who spent $2,000.00 plus last year for kindle books, I was looking forward to this type of service. So I downloaded the app just to find out that the service is invite only even though you pay for it. It reminds me of a club with a cover charge. So I need to be invited to a subscription service??? It completely left me distasteful feeling. Don't release your app if its not ready for people to actually use. This is a great idea with poor execution. Delete.
  • Oyster is useless and run by idiots

    It may not bother the other-planet set who tend to hang out here, but Oyster and it's wonderful 500,000 books is completely useless on a PC or laptop.

    That of course makes its excellent selection of consumer level technical books useless as well - can you imagine learning C from your ipod!

    I wonder if Oyster's investors realize the product has so little substance it can't possibly make enough money to cover the investment needed to offer 500,000 books.