Indie authors, this is the news that could change everything: Oyster is in beta test of its $9.95 per month unlimited ebook lending subscription service. Could this be for ebooks what Netflix is for film? Spotify for music? Audible for audiobooks? Or even better?

It appears that way.The clean and easy iPhone user interface allows you to read downloads on or offline via iBooks or a Kindle app. Oyster plans to expand to iPad in the fall. Non-apple users: you’ll have a slightly longer wait. Readers turn pages with a flick and can share favorites through social reading features. Oyster also “learns” a reader’s tastes over time and recommends books.

Oyster has 100,000+ copyrighted works and growing every day, although at present the only finalized major publisher deal they have is with Harper Collins.  Indie authors, take note: they announced an agreement this week with Smashwords that opens up participation for indie writers, which could cause me to rethink my position on Smashwords. Smashwords expects to upload to Oyster in about three weeks and will announce via email to its authors the financial terms before that time, terms they say will leave authors “pleased,” and avoid the exclusivity demands of KDP Select.

OK, I confess: I re-activated my books on Smashwords last night so I could get in on this opportunity to connect with new readers. I’d already ended my latest KDP Select run, and I have to say, it was quite disappointing. I, like many other authors, felt the impact of subtle shifts by Amazon to dilute the benefits of KDP to authors, mainly in decreasing free downloads and their impact on post-free run sales rankings. Read here for more on the shifts/negatives. Those that still feel free runs on KDP Select are viable have to purchase increasingly expensive ads (like on BookBub) to support them, increasing the risk of a loss and decreasing the potential return on investment. Lends usually net the authors about $2 apiece through KDP Select. As I advised in What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?, KDP Select is still great for a fledgling author hoping to generate reviews, keep it simple, and maximize the impacts of their publishing efforts in the one (biggest) sales engine, but, honestly, I feel a broader brush approach will be more beneficial to a multi-title author in the long run, especially with the advent of Oyster.

So SkipJack Publishing–my publisher, and the company I co-own with my husband–contacted Oyster to see if we could contract with them directly with our authors’ books. Oyster’s response was fast and positive, but asked for a month reprieve as they are overwhelmed at present. They said they definitely plan to work directly with quality small presses. That could pull me right back out of Smashwords again, but, we will just have to see how this all shakes out. In the meantime, I cursed the evil Smash last night after spending five hours getting my old books in order and formatting and uploading my two newest.

But I have a feeling Oyster could be worth the hassle.


Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling mysterious women’s fiction (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (How to Screw Up Your Kids) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.


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One Response to The world of books could be your oyster.

  1. Eric says:

    This is an interesting development!