Ebook subscription service Oyster teams up with Disney and rolls out kids’ vertical

Oyster children's

Oyster, the New York–based startup that aims to be the Netflix for ebooks, has added about 100 titles from Disney Publishing to its service and is rolling out a new children’s vertical Wednesday.

Oyster, which launched last September, charges $9.95 per month for unlimited access to a library of over 100,000 in-copyright ebooks and has iPhone and iPad apps. (The company hasn’t publicly updated that 100,000 figure since launch.) Android apps are slated for later this year.

Along with the Disney books, which feature properties like Toy StoryCars and the Disney Princesses, the vertical will include titles that were already available on Oyster and were either lumped in under “Young Adult” or weren’t categorized. Among those are series like Lemony Snicket and Beezus and Ramona (HarperCollins), Boxcar Children (Open Road) and Curious George (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). In all, CEO Eric Stromberg said that about 10,000 children’s and young adult ebooks are available on Oyster.

When people hear “children’s books,” they often think “picture books,” but that’s not really the case here: Almost all of the children’s titles on Oyster are primarily text-based, not picture books. “The focus for us is more on the short chapter-book side,” Stromberg told me, though he noted that Oyster does have a couple of picture books — like Curious George — available.

Several companies are trying to offer children’s ebook subscriptions. One of those offerings is Amazon’s Kindle FreeTime Unlimited, which starts at $2.99 per month and offers unlimited access to a library of children’s ebooks, apps, movies and games on Kindle Fire tablets. Kindle FreeTime Unlimited includes 1,600 ebooks, including around 100 Disney titles. Disney used to offer its own ebook subscription service, but ended it.

Oyster doesn’t plan to break out a separate children’s product for a separate subscription fee. Rather, Stromberg said, “we’re going to continue to build [the service] as a broadly compelling offering,” and parents can share accounts with their kids.

Oyster has raised $17 million from Highland Capital Partners and Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Stromberg said the company will hit 30 full-time employees in a few months. He wouldn’t share how many subscribers Oyster has.

This piece was updated to note that the 10,000 figure includes both children’s and YA ebooks.

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