I was extremely excited about the Oyster subscription concept. Imagine, reading as many books as I like for the cost of a single paperback! It was Netflix, brought into the world of books.
Unfortunately, the Netflix analogy is apt.
The app itself continues the trend towards style over substance. You can, for example, add books to your Reading List… which is then presented to you in a single side-scrolling horizontal list, three at a time. Recent books? Also a three-up side-scroller.
Unfortunately, this echoes the latest fashion trend in app design, as Netflix too recently modified its app to present your entire stored movie list in a single side-scrolling line on the home page.
You can, of course, browse in horizontal mode… which adds one box book to the list.
The book covers themselves are overly large, which means that when browsing for books off the Home screen you can see just six books at a time (plus the top eighth of three more).
All in all, none of the above design choices would seem to be the best way to browse, build, or manage a reading list of “unlimited” books. Then again, perhaps the cover size was intentional, an attempt to compensate in size for the catalog’s lack of depth.
Even reading itself is problematic: Oyster, in its infinite design wisdom, decided to eschew the traditional side-to-side page flip in favor of a single vertical scrolling metaphor. Want to go to the next page? Flip up. Flip down to go back.
The display options are equally limited. Want to adjust margins? Line spacing? Read horizontally in “two-up” mode? Sorry.
As I said, I really, really, really wanted to like Oyster. And they should be congratulated for attempting to challenge the publishing industries’ conventional business models.
But the limited selection is, I’m afraid, Oyster’s fatal flaw. Given sufficient high-quality content, one could forgive the poor design choices. Combined with their lack, however, I’m afraid that at this point in time the Oyster is little more an empty shell.