Apparently, Oyster’s subscription model involved paying “full retail price” to publisherswhen a customer crossed some threshold of engagement with an individual ebook they were reading through the subscription service (Oyster also had an ebook store but it hasn’t figured much in any of the reporting). It seems the tech was so well-made and the site’s UI so slick that more people were signing up, sticking around and reading more ebooks than the publisher contract side of the equation could sustain.
Essentially, it looks like Oyster was losing money every time a subscriber read more thantwo books in a month.
In other words, ebook reading with Oyster’s tech turned out to be *too good* for the business model to sustain it, because structurally it relied on people reading just enough ebooks, but not too many.
I suspect the publishers analyzed Oyster’s offer in what must have been some pretty time-consuming negotiations and dinner parties, and, seeing that Oyster would be unable to pay for the customer’s effective per-book discount (which is the whole point of a subscription service) if it were to succeed, they concluded its failure was guaranteed one way or the other.
Now, here’s the clutch … google wants the whole Oyster company … and the traditional publisher’s know why, the Guttenberg project is back on and google has the legal right to turn the library of congress into a digital library. Which means there will be millions of book titles replicating freely around the internet soon.
To be clear, what I’m saying is that traditional publishers actually make their money not from the traits of novels, or biographies, or any other kind of *text:* they make their money from bundles of paper that can essentially be seized or held up at the border, or be pulped, or burned, or just deteriorate in ways a digital file can’t.