Businesses are usually started up to satisfy a demand, providing something people want but can’t get easily, and so they’re willing to pay a commercial provider. If the new business seems to have found a legitimate need for its services, it can attract venture capital. So what does it say about libraries that there are new businesses being funded now that provide library-type services for a fee, services that libraries have traditionally provided for free? Will people be willing to pay to borrow (e)books or for answers to their questions? Have libraries failed to give people what they want and left an opening for commercial providers? The answer to that last question will depend on the success or failure of these new business ventures.
- Oyster raises $3M from Founders Fund to finally create an unlimited subscription service for books (TechCrunch/Romain Dillet) “When it comes to digital entertainment content, you can either buy everything you want or subscribe to an unlimited service. Yet, ebook offerings are still behind. Oyster will fix that. […] When the service launches, it will go a bit further than a simple library by trying to select great books for its users and providing community features to increase user retention. Instead of focusing on the staid old publishing industry, Oyster is trying to improve reading in general.”
- E-book subscription service Oyster gets $3 million in funding, wants to be Spotify for books (Digital Book World/Jeremy Greenfield) “[CEO Eric] Stromberg has held positions at a start-up called Hunch that was acquired by eBay and as an advisor at venture capital fund Founder Collective; Andrew Brown, another of the co-founders, has held positions at Google and Microsoft; and the third, Willem Van Lancker, has spent time at Google and Apple. While industry observers have said that it can’t be done, there is a very promising model for Oyster to consider emulating: The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.”
- Meet the Q&A site where people pay $150 for answers (GigaOM/Bobbie Johnson) “And the team plans to extend that opportunity by pushing hard in new communities and new countries, using the new funding to first open an office in San Francisco, and then targeting India and China. Put it all together, they say, and the opportunity here could be significant. ‘Around 300 million people turn to Q&A online each month, but low quality answers are a big problem,’ says [Mancx co-founder Henrik] Dillman. ‘It’s a big shift from three or four years ago, when people expected everything should be free.’”
- Pearl.com cracks open $25.7M investment oyster (VentureBeat/Rebecca Grant) “Inquirers select the type of advice they need, enter their query, and identify the price they are willing to pay. From there, they can have a one-on-one question with a verified professional. Members include doctors, lawyers, mechanics, veterinarians, computer technicians, and electronic and home repair gurus. These experts can help you understand immigration laws, troubleshoot car engine issues, and diagnose health problems.”
Oyster has little to say about the publishers that will supply ebooks for their service, focusing more attention right now on how people will access those books. Yet industry watchers point out that any company building a general-interest lending library of ebooks will have to compete with Amazon and its strong relationship with publishers. Libraries already are experiencing that competition.