As a book lover, I have three principle struggles in my life. Space for books, money for books, and access to books. I live in a very rural area with a kind, but painfully limited library and the nearest book shop is 50 minutes from my house. Now when I say the nearest book shop, I really mean the nearest city, where in there are a books a million (which I’m not fond of for top dollar prices, and low quality service/staff help/okay selection), one used/antique book store (which has nothing written since the 80’s in it, though full of beautiful volumes it’s not a place you go shopping, it’s more of an experience), and one independent used/new discount everything nerd/geek music/movie/gamer/bookshop (which has the coolest vibe, staff, customer, atmosphere and obscure selection but only has room for about 7 30ft book shelves). Obviously the last is where I buy and sell all my books and they are easily my favorite store in the whole state I live in, but since they’re pretty tiny and they dabble in everything nerd/media related, it’s a bit random what you’ll find on any given day.
So essentially if I am looking for a particular book, right now, I purchase online through Amazon, Book Outlet, Book depository, or Ebay. This obviously can get expensive between shipping and is also subject to sales/discounts because there’s just not enough money to buy every book on my tbr in hardcover at full price.
I’ve lived rural for over a decade now, so this isn’t a new development although in the past 6 years five book stores that I used to have access to with better prices, closer location and more selection have closed, so it’s definitely something that’s starting to pinch. Which is why I was so happy to discover a service called OysterBooks.com
A friend of mind told me about it early in the year, and I sat down with a free trial at the beginning of March, and am just now approaching the point where I’ve used it for 2 and a half months, so I thought I’d review what turned out to be a pretty fabulous experience.
If you’ve never heard of Oysterbooks, it’s essentially Netflix. For books. You pay 10$ a month to read as many books as you would like via their website, or mobile app with no limit to how many you can start and finish. Think streaming on netflix, but with thousands of books at the touch of your finger tips. Pretty cool right?
So aside from being affordable, my number one concern when I signed up was being able to find things I wanted to read. Sure there are lots of books out there, but it’s not about quantity, it’s quality and interest, so I was kind of skeptical at first. Thankfully there is a two week free trial which I recommend to anyone who’s interested in trying it out to see if this is a service you might benefit from.
When you sign up, you can browse through an impressively large selection of basically anything you can think of. Obviously there is more fiction than art books, but I have to say I was surprised at the depth of choice they have with NYT best sellers, biography, business, fantasy, fiction and literature, mystery, history, romance, science fiction, thriller, young adult, art, and children’s books. Similarly to netflix, a new release (something that came out in the last 6 months) is not going to be available. However, speaking specifically about YA releases, because that’s primarily what I read, I found a substantial amount of things that I’ve been meaning to read available. Usually the sweet spot is about 1-1.5 years and older books are available, but very popular things can sometimes crop up much sooner than that.
As it stands, after a two month membership and a 2 week free trial, I read 12 books with the service, and have a current reading list TBR through the site of 68 books that I can pick up at anytime. The really fun thing about this is that with 68 books to read, it’s inevitable that the more time which passes, the more current new releases will find their way to the site.
I love this service and can’t recommend it more highly in terms of convenience of lots of books on my phone on a whim. Plus when you think about it, I paid 20 bucks to read 12 books. Yes, if any of those volumes had been available at my library they’d have been free, but they weren’t and I saved money on purchasing books (not to mention space to keep them) because not every book I read was something I loved. I was able to read a wide variety of things, several of which I wound up hating and would have been really ticked off to have spent cash to own. In another note, I tried out some books that looked good, but I wouldn’t have purchased in stores on a whim that turned out to be in my top 10 books so far this year, which I’m now eagerly adding to my physical collection.
While I won’t use the service every month of the year, because some months I do have luck with used book sales and my hard copy tbr has to be thinned, Oysterbooks is now a staple in my reading diet and I can’t encourage you to try it enough.
As a disclaimer though when participating in any kind of free trial online do read the terms. In the case of Oysterbooks they are very straight forward, and open/reputable with their business practice making it hassle free to cancel membership at any time, but be aware that you do sign up with a credit/debit card and at the end of your two week trial, you will be automatically renewed for your first month unless you enter your account and state otherwise. So I recommend marking on your calendar the cut off point of 11-12 days into your trial so that you can make a choice one way or another before being charged. At 9.95$ a month it’s hardly going to break the bank, but you do want to be aware that it’s renewal is automatic. When or if you do take time away from the program, you can set the account to unsubscribed, and still use the rest of the membership you payed for, so if you’re feeling unsure, you can pay for your first month and then immediately turn the service off and still read for the 30 days.
This is one of the best bookish discoveries I’ve had this year, and it’s definitely helped me to read more. I found that I would read in bed first thing in the morning, and last thing at night on my phone and it didn’t distract my husband, or kill my arms to hold my ipad. I do of course have ibooks and kindle on my phone as well, but with a much wider selection of books to chose from, I gravitated more toward Oyster for early and late night reading, rather than my own library. As I said, I got to try out a bunch of things I wouldn’t otherwise, and discovered some new favorites, so the experience was a total success in my mind.
I’ve logged reviews for all the books listed below so you can check them out in previous posts, but I thought I’d include a rundown just to give you any idea of the selection I wound up with after my 2.5 month usage.
Books I read (12):
I’ve bolded books that I loved and need to now purchase thanks to the site. It’s also worth noting that you can purchase digital copies of any book available on Oyster, through Oyster.
Selection, Elite and One by Kiera Cass
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Shatter me and Destroy me by Tahereh Mafi
Delirium, Pandemonium and Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Wallbanger by Alice Clayton
Fortunately the Milk by Niel Gaiman
Disclaimer: All opinions are my own, no one gave me any money or asked me to review this service, I just feel like it’s a really cool thing that not a lot of people know about. Like a secret book club or something. So go forth and read people.