Sometimes, it takes an upstart startup to shake up an industry and force spur moving giants into action. But sometimes, those startups don’t get to fully experience the fruits of their herculean labors. That might be the case of Oyster, popularly nicknamed the Netflix for books as its founders announced on the company blog that they will be sunsetting the service in several months. Speculations point to a yet to be confirmed hiring by Google of some of Oyster’s staff, practically assimilating the service into its own Google Play Books.
When it comes to ebooks, there is perhaps no bigger name than Amazon, but that never meant the giant was invincible. Oyster proved that when it launched, basically a book rental service that resembled the business model used by Netflix.The idea became a hit to the point that, directly or indirectly, Amazon would counteract by launching its own Kindle Unlimited rental option. Scribd, more popular for hosting papers than books, would follow suit with subscription based ebook and comic rentals.
Perhaps its own hype didn’t work in Oyster’s favor when its most powerful rivals started adopting its strategy. We still don’t know what happened behind the scenes but what is clear is that Osyter as a distinct and independent service will be no more in a few months. Its founders say that they are still committed to the vision of connecting readers with books. Now, however, they are even more interested in using smartphones as the vehicle for that delivery.
That possibly ties in with sources saying that part of the Oyster’s workforce has been hired by Google for its own Play Books market. That might not be much of a surprise, considering how Google has a habit of acquiring smart startups to integrate into their own services, like they did with Waze and Google Maps. Neither company has formally confirmed the acquisition yet.
For now, Oyster remains vague in what the future holds, especially for its subscribers. The closure won’t happen until a few months, until which time it would be business as normal somewhat. Oyster has yet to even reveal a concrete date for the shutdown, leaving subscribers in uncertainty.