Before I go any further, let me state something right up front: nothing will EVER replace real books.
There’s something about the feel and the smell of paper that is precious to any avid reader, and although e-books are convenient, they certainly can’t quite duplicate the experience of cracking open a brand new paperback from the bookstore, or better yet, gently opening an old book you found on the shelves of your favorite used store.
That being said, if you’re a voracious reader like me, you know that feeding a book habit can be expensive, whether you prefer tangible books or their electronic counterparts. And if you live in a small space, you probably only have limited storage room for physical books anyway.
There are, of course, ways to get bargains on books of both paper and digital types: most towns have used bookstores where readers drop off their “previously loved” editions for someone else to discover (if you’re ever in Tennessee, be sure to visit McKay Books in Knoxville, Nashville, or Chattanooga for some great bargains on books, music, movies, and video games); you can also usually find used books at your local thrift store; and of course there’s the public library for free check-outs, and bargains if a “Friends of the Library” organization hosts periodic sales. On the e-book side, Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble often offer free and reduced-price books, usually from indie authors, older bestsellers, and public domain books. Newsletters like BookBub and Bookperk will aggregate the best deals around the web so you can discover some new reading material. Chances are also good your local library has an e-book lending service.
But even if you bargain shop, those book costs can really add up. Plus, your favorite used bookstore might not have any copies of a certain book, or any works by a specific author that you’d like to find. And if you’re relying on the library for a physical or e-book, you might be waiting months for a particular title.
So what’s a reader with an insatiable appetite to do? Two relatively new apps are hoping to fill that gap.
I had seen ads on Facebook for both Scribd and Oyster, referring to both as the “Netflix of books.” Recently, in a search for a story similar to one of my favorite authors, whose next novel isn’t due out for months yet, I decided to download both apps to see if I could find anything comparable. Like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime for movies and TV, and Spotify for music, the idea is to allow you unlimited reading and recommendations to help you discover new stuff.
Scribd and Oyster are fairly similar to one another. Scribd is a bit cheaper, at $8.99 per month, while Oyster is $9.99 per month, or you can buy three or six months or a year’s subscription up front, for a gradually reducing monthly rate. You can test both for free – Oyster gives you a week trial, while Scribd gives you a month. On both apps, you can swipe through curated lists, search for titles and authors, or browse by genre and subgenre. You can also add books to your library (from what I’ve seen, Oyster allows you to store up to 10 and Scribd allows up to 20) for offline reading. Both apps are available on iOS and Android – and Scribd, which has been around for a few years as a document-sharing site, also lets you read on your computer – and should sync between devices to allow you to, say, continue on your phone from where you left off on your tablet. You can create an account or sign in using your Facebook account – and if you so desire, share what you’re reading with your friends.
Since Scribd is a little cheaper monthly and has a longer trial period, I decided to go ahead and fill out the subscription details for it. There seem to be some differences in selection on both apps, so when my budget isn’t as tight, I’d like to maintain subscriptions to both – and from the reviews I’ve read online, it seems that Oyster is generally the favored app.
As far as the selection goes, don’t expect to find the hottest new releases available right away. Apparently, the primary publisher working with both companies is Harper Collins, so there are still a lot of books and authors that you won’t find on either app. Some of my futile searches included Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, and the Outlander series. You won’t find The Ocean at the End of the Lane, but if you want to read an older Neil Gaiman selection like Stardust or American Gods, it’s there. You can binge on all the Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and other Agatha Christie characters that you want. And if you browse by genre, you’re sure to find lots of things to read. There are lots of indie publishers working with Scribd and Oyster, so you might find the next great thing that you would have never heard of otherwise.
I’ve been fairly satisfied with Scribd so far. I’m still in my first month, but I’m already about 25% through my second book, and I’ve found a wide selection of things to read next. It’s nice to have access to books anywhere and any time – it’ll be great for traveling, I’m sure.
Amazon Prime apparently has a similar service for subscribers with Kindle devices, allowing you to borrow one e-book per month. If you already have a Prime subscription, don’t read more than one book a month, or want to have access to newer releases and a wider selection of publishers, that might be the way to go. But if you’re a voracious, adventurous reader on a tight budget, be sure to check out Oyster and Scribd.
Have you used any of these services? Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: The companies disclosed in this post have not sponsored the author in any means. The opinions are 100% that of the blog author.