Oyster Books App

largeSo Slashdot linked to this article on a new iOS app that basically aims to be “The Netflix For Books.”  It sounded cool.  Personally, I read tons of books and my local library doesn’t do the loaner ebook thing.  If they had a wide selection of books, I could see using this app.

However, my understanding is that Netflix is a horrible deal for the filmmakers.  They are paying well for the series they commission, but everyone else gets peanuts for making movies and TV shows people watch on Netflix.  Like ONE peanut each.  As a publisher and an author, I would really hate for someone to invent yet another way to not get paid for producing entertainment content.  Thusly, I emailed them and asked for information on how they planned to work with authors and publishers.  This is the response I got:

We are very excited to work with quality smaller publishers going forward. Our team here is still small and at currently capacity in terms of handling smaller partnerships. We are interested in pursuing such partnerships in the future. I will make a note of your account and also encourage you to please check back with us the future.

As for our terms, we have worked very hard with our current partners to build a model that works really well for authors, publishers, and readers. I look forward to sharing more in the future if we do work together.

So basically, they blew me off.  Oh well.  Good luck with that, guys.

 <UPDATE: 9/12/2013>

imagesSo, I was on Smashwords, looking for a *.mobi version of the DCT novel and I found an opt-in to Oyster books.  How odd.  Searching around on Smashword’s site, I could find no information on what I was opting into or out of with Oyster books.  Searching the Internet yielded a post on the Smashwords blog that promised authors and publishers who used Smashwords would receive an email fully disclosing what benefits would be derived from opting in to Oyster.  The blog post indicates that authors and publishers will receive some kind of compensation when their book is read in the same manner that Spotify and Pandora have structured their music services to compensate musicians when their song is played.  Sounds neat, except our book was automatically opted in without any notification and we have not received an email.  We’ve chosen to opt out of Oyster until we see more information on how their system will be structured.

selling_out_550While a “pay per read” system seems like the best bet, other implementations of this scheme are fraught with difficulties.  There are plenty of examples of musicians pulling their content from Spotify for lack of payment and generally not getting paid for people listening to their songs and downloading their albums.  The same complaint is made by filmmakers – that Netflix screws them over.  In traditional publishing, it is not uncommon for distributors, agents, and publishers to fail to pass along royalties to the author.

Do we have a better option?  Not at this time.  The joy of the Internet though is that it evolves rapidly.  We are scientists.  We believe that The Journal Of Null Results should exist even if as only a punchline in the scientific community.  Thusly, we pass this information on to you.

If you can think of a better way to ensure that more money paid for entertainment gets to the creators of that entertainment, we’d love to hear it.  Please comment.

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