By Mark Coker

Smashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Oyster, a new and innovative ebook subscription service.  Oyster offers consumers unlimited access to more than 100,000 ebooks for $9.95 per month.

I’ve been following the ebook subscription space for some time.  As an ebook distributor, our job is to search out the most compelling opportunities to help our authors connect with reader eyeballs.  Oyster is one such opportunity.

The closest analog to Oyster in the music business is Spotify, and in the video rental business it’s our Los Gatos neighbor NetFlix.  The closest, most familiar analog to Oyster on the ebook market today is Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library, where subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service who own a Kindle can download and read one ebook for free per month.  The author or publisher, who must enroll their book in Amazon’s KDP Select program to benefit from KOLL, earns about $2.00 for each download.

I expect Smashwords titles to begin shipping to Oyster in about three weeks.  At least 72 hours before we begin shipping to Oyster, I’ll send out an email alert to all Smashwords authors and publishers.  The email will contain complete financial details, including royalty rates and sampling thresholds, so you can make an informed decision about your participation.  It’s an author friendly deal so I expect you’ll be pleased.

Unlike KDP Select, Oyster does not require exclusivity.  It’s open to all Smashwords authors. A single Oyster user could conceivably read multiple books by the same Smashwords author in a single month, and the author will be paid for each book.  Smashwords authors will earn their royalty whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than a sample of their book.

Oyster’s subscription service will help our authors connect with a segment of the reading audience they’re not reaching anywhere else.  Oyster will also give authors yet another reason to steer clear of exclusivity and embrace full distribution with Smashwords.

Oyster formally launched today with its iPhone app, which users can download from Apple’s App Store.  From what I’ve seen of it, the app is elegantly designed.  It incorporates social reading features that allow readers to follow and friend fellow readers and see what their friends are reading or have read.  The app will be available on other platforms in the future.

Oyster has impressive backers drawn from Silicon Valley and New York.  Back in October, they announced $3 million in funding led by Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund.  The round also included Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital, Chris Dixon and Sam Altman.

Smashwords authors don’t need to do anything to enjoy Oyster distribution other than ensure their books are Premium Catalog-approved.  If you’re not yet publishing and distributing with Smashwords, click here to get started today.

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