Yesterday I finally took the leap and signed up for Oyster, the ebook service that plugs itself as the "Netflix of books". If you aren't familiar with these services (Scribd and Kindle Unlimited are two others), the premise is that you pay a monthly fee and get unlimited access to their library of ebooks. Oyster charges $9.95 a month, which isn't an outrageous sum but I can't really afford adding that to my budget right now. However, Oyster has a free trial for the summer where you can pay 99 cents for three months and then switch to the full price. That's a cheap way to satisfy my curiosity about the service, so I signed up.
One way that Oyster lives up to its advertising as the "Netflix of books" is in its selection. When you first open Oyster, you will see a lot of popular books. If you look more closely, however, you will notice that not all of them have the tiny "Unlimited" tag on them. Just as Netflix has a huge selection of movies but only a small subsection of those movies are available for streaming, not all of Oyster's books are available to read for free with your subscription. There is a toggle on the website that allows you to see only the free-to-read books, but in my experience it keeps resetting itself when I do a search. At least the one in the iPad app stays set to "Unlimited".
Speaking of the Oyster app, it is pretty but it will take a little getting used to for me. Ever since I started reading ebooks about three years ago, I've done 98% of my reading in the Kindle app. I am accustomed to having the page-turning animation and being able to read in two columns, two settings that are not available in the Oyster app. I can't make the font as large as I can in the Kindle app, either. None of these little quibbles would stop me from using the service; it's just something to get used to. One aspect of the app that I do like, though, is the front page which mimics the website with lists of top books in each category and recommendations like "21 Books to Read With Your Best Friends".
I have a shelf on Goodreads entitled "not at my library" and there are currently about 250 titles on it. I'm going through that list to get the best out of this free trial. I've already found six books from the list, which means I could stop looking now and have my money's worth. I doubt that I will continue using Oyster after my trial expires, though. If I was in the market for this kind of service, I would have to compare Oyster to the other services out there because ultimately, the best service is the one that most titles in the genres that you prefer to read.