Two startups are trying to do for e-books what Netflix does for movies. Oyster and Scribd let you read as many books as you want for a monthly price -- $10 for Oyster and $9 for Scribd.
I was skeptical at first. I can never find enough time to read, and I'm picky about what I do read. I was worried about their limited book selections.
But I found plenty to read in no time, and I found myself reading more than I normally would. These services are great if you have a long weekend or a vacation coming up, or in my case three weeks of travels from California to New York.
Just don't think it'll be the same as walking into a library and finding just about any book you want.
I checked several titles from my wish list and asked colleagues for other suggestions, including a few for kids or in foreign languages. Of the 75 I checked, Oyster had 17 and Scribd had 16. For some popular novels, such as "The Hunger Games" series and "A Fault in Our Stars," I got readers' guides and other companions, but not the actual books.
Both services have selected titles from Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and lots of smaller publishers, but other major U.S. publishers -- Hachette, Macmillan and Penguin Random House -- remain holdouts. And even when there's a deal with a publisher, newer books tend to be excluded.
Avid readers won't be bored, though. When I signed up, Scribd asked about the types of books I like. Oyster didn't but still made good recommendations based on what other subscribers are reading.
I quickly found about two dozen books between the two services. Each time I added a title, I got recommendations for more. I just finished books on lobster populations and the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company. I'm now reading about Lance Armstrong and the doping scandal -- another book I wouldn't have known about if it hadn't popped up on Scribd.
In that sense, both services are much like Netflix. Netflix's streaming selection looks poor when you are searching for a specific title, but Netflix is smart enough to recommend enough movies to keep you paying $8 or $9 a month.
There are enough books to keep you busy for months or years. Oyster has more than 500,000 titles, while Scribd has more than 400,000.
Neither Oyster nor Scribd works on dedicated e-readers such as Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite. Rather, you need a device that lets you install apps. (continued...)
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