Discovering Books with Oyster
Written by: Anthony Hagan

Oyster is a book discovery service that opens up the world of books to the masses.  It is quite refreshing to have such a service that allows patrons to subscribe and gain access to endless book titles that satisfy all tastes.  As we have grown accustomed to, every industry is being disrupted in our current digital age, and books are not immune to this.  However, Oyster has no animosity towards physical books – the service is actually very okay with living harmoniously with print books.  Style.No.Chaser understands that books are jewels available to anyone daring enough to read them so any service that enhances reading has to be doing selfless work.  We are thankful to have been able to connect with Co-Founder and CPO of Oyster, Willem Van Lancker (seen immediately below) to ask him some key questions.

See the interview below.

We’re focused on creating new ways to connect readers with books they’ll …”

Please tell us a little about the genesis, philosophy, culture and ultimate goal of Oyster?

We founded Oyster to create a more modern and seamless way to read and discover books. Before we started the company, we felt that a lot had been lost—design, discoverability, and community—in the transition of books to digital. Everything we do focuses on creating the best experience for reading and to connect readers with books they’ll love. In particular, the model we’ve created—in which readers have unlimited access to our library of over 1 million books—takes away the transactional aspect of starting a new book, which lets the reader focus on finding the perfect book for them.

Due to the arrival of digital books and the entry of book streaming service providers like Oyster, what do you think is the fate of the actual physical book?

We believe that our subscription service is very much a complement to print books and libraries. Our team reads print books, as well as ebooks on Oyster, and we believe consumers will continue to do the same. At the same time, we expect digital reading to become more prevalent in the coming years, as the experience of reading on tablets, and particularly the smartphones people have with them all the time, gets continuously better. The more channels and opportunities for consumers to read books, the better.

What are the main advantages and disadvantages for a company like yours to be based in NY City?

Our office is in the heart of the publishing world, giving us the opportunity to build strong relationships across the industry. Our geographic proximity to publishers allows us to work face-to-face and hand-in-hand with them. These relationships are essential to building a product that’s beneficial for both our readers and those who create the content.

What do you think are the key factors needed for growth in your industry?

We believe the key to our success is building a great book discovery experience and continuing to develop strong relationships with publishers, authors, and readers.
We’re focused on creating new ways to connect readers with books they’ll love, whether that’s through editorial initiatives, new product features, or data-driven personal recommendations. We have a lot of exciting product initiatives coming over the next few months, so we can continue to deliver the best possible experience for our readers.
By getting more people reading books they love, we’re growing demand for books, which is good for publishers, authors, readers and us. We’re also continuing to see growing excitement in the industry, with more new publishers—and additional books from existing partners—constantly being added to our library.

What is the most popular book streamed since your founding?

People read a wide variety of books on Oyster, but a couple that have been consistently popular are Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and The Giver by Lois Lowry. Since we launched the Harry Potter series in January, the series has also been at the top of our most-popular list.

Your team seems extremely close-knit, what is the secret to a happy employee base?

What I’ve found is that the best teams are made up of talented people that are driven towards the same goal. Everyone at Oyster is focused and excited about building the absolute best experience for reading, so we challenge and push one another.  That doesn’t mean every moment is like a house party with our best friends—it means there is a sense of shared purpose and intensity to do the best work of our lives together.

How can people learn more about Oyster and your new products/services?

The best way to learn about Oyster is to sign up for a free trial on our website, follow us on our social channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), or check out our blog and The Oyster Review, our critically-acclaimed literary magazine.

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