Sunday, March 16, 2014

Reading by Subscription

When I was younger, my parents quickly learned the dangers of the Scholastic Book Orders. At first the $3, $4 books seemed like inexpensive entertainment for me, but they realized I read far too quickly for such programs to be worthwhile. Banned from impulsive book buying, I learned to hunt through libraries for all my reading needs. I even maxed out the amount of books I could check out by taking home all the Animorph books at once.

Now in college, it's become impractical to bring home stacks of books. As glamorous as those book piles look on my dresser, I need room to work and do homework; you know, 'adult stuff'. Ebooks became my friends more out of necessity than desire, and thus, the glimmering world of hope that opened up when subscription based reading services arrived.

Oyster vs. Scribd
When you look into book subscription services, there are two clear front runners in this category: Scribd, and Oyster. The catalogs are similar in size (about 100,000 books), and the price is close as well ($8.99, $9.95). The key differences I encountered are the readers they are compatible with. Oyster only runs on devices with Apple iOS 7; this includes most of the iPhones and iPads currently on the market. Scribd, on the other hand, has it's own online reader, and is compatible with both Apple and Android devices. Because I have an iPhone, this didn't limit my choice, but I can see where it would be problematic for readers who don't have an Apple device.

Between the two services, I found Oyster had the better selection, however. Many of the books were new releases, and the YA/Teen category had a large variety to choose from. I easily added 10 books to my shelf just skimming through the covers and finding books I recognized and had wanted to read. Scribd didn't have the same appeal to me. Most of the books were older, and I picked them up because I wanted to RE-read them. Almost every Warriors book was in that service, but I wasn't sure I wanted to pay $9 a month just to re-read one series. Scribd felt like a library, which was good, but Oyster felt like having the free run of a book store, which was much more exciting.

Once I had a book I was interested in, the next phase was to sit and read. Scribd was set up much like any ereader. It was familiar, easy to use, but I wasn't dazzled by it. The book I picked up had some awkward formatting problems, which was annoyed, but not unheard of. Even after zooming in full sized there was one page I still couldn't read, and eventually just moved on. Oyster, on the other hand, has a beautiful design. The pages are clean, consistent, and I have yet to find a book in their catalog that doesn't meet those standards. The viewing options are fun as well. I prefer reading in Herald, but there are four other templates readers can choose from that change font and color options. Oyster is more about the mobile device than about the actual online experience. While you can add books and search for them on the computer, many of the functions are more streamlined and easy to use on the actual device.

For payment options, I like that you can use Paypal through Scribd, and it would be nice if Oyster added this option as well. Both have free trials for a month, and cancellation seems easy enough. Oyster was a little tricky to navigate at first, but feels more streamlined once you get used to it. I wish Scribd had a category just for YA, however, because getting trapped in a collection of children's books is a big downer. Overall, I think it depends on what you're looking to read. Oyster helps me get new titles without forking out wads of cash every month, while Scribd would bring the library right to my device.

Since I can't have both, I'll probably stick with Oyster. It's clean, wonderfully designed, and I am enjoying the books it offers. I'm still finding books I'm eager to read, and new titles arrive every day. What else could a book addict possibly ask for?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the info! I was looking into subscribing to Scribd but now that you've mentioned Oyster, I think I'll go check it out. :)