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  • Monday, 28 Sep 2015

‘Netflix for e-books’ shutters

Oyster, the startup seeking to be the “Netflix for e-books” by offering unlimited reading for a monthly fee, says its story is coming to an end.

The company announced in a blog late Monday it “will be taking steps to ‘sunset’ the existing Oyster service over the next several months.”

Oyster readers would be informed about the shutdown over the next few weeks, the statement said.

The Oyster blog said the company launched “with a simple idea to build a better way to read on mobile,” and that “we’ve made incredible progress towards that goal.”

“We look forward to sharing more details soon, but rest assured, your account will continue to operate normally in the meantime,” the company said.

Oyster launched in 2013 with a US$9.95 monthly subscription plan for a wide selection of books — but without most top-selling titles — a deal similar to that of Netflix’s streaming video service.

It later allowed users to purchase best-selling e-books directly from its website.

But it faced tough competition from Amazon and from other digital book providers including Apple, Google and Barnes & Noble.

The news website Re/code reported that Google had hired some members of the Oyster team, in preparation for a possible subscription service through Google Play Books

Social good a part of Kickstarter biz model

Crowd-funding platform Kickstarter on Monday officially made social good part of its business model by changing its US corporate status.

Kickstarter changed from a standard for-profit structure to being a public benefit corporation (PBC) that is out to make money but bound to take into account the effects of business decisions on society, as well as on shareholders, according to the founders.

“Companies that believe there are more important goals than maximising shareholder value have been at odds with the expectation that for-profit companies must exist ultimately for profit above all,” Kickstarter founders said in an online post.

“Radically, positive impact on society becomes part of a benefit corporation’s legally defined goals.”

Less than 1% of US companies have opted for PBC status, among them Patagonia and This American Life, according to Kickstarter.

“We believe that can and will change in the coming years,” the founders said. “More and more voices are rejecting business as usual, and the pursuit of profit above all.”

New York City-based Kickstarter launched in early 2009 as an online venue where creative projects seek financial backing from people who pledge funds, usually with the promise of a reward related to the endeavour being backed.

Kickstarter will donate 5% of its annual net profit to organisations and arts education programmes battling inequality, according to the founders.

Music streaming surpasses physical sales

Streaming music is officially a bigger business than physical music sales in the US for the first time, according to new data released today by the Recording Industry Association of America.

If the current trends continue, streaming will even surpass digital download sales as the biggest single source of revenue for the music industry by next year.

As some parts of the music industry shrank rapidly and other parts boomed, the overall industry remained about flat in the first half of 2015, compared to the same period the year before.

“The data continues to reflect the story of a business undergoing an enormous transformation,” said Cary Sherman, the chairman of the RIAA.

Streaming currently accounts for about one-third of overall spending on music, totaling just over US$1bil for the first six months of the year. The shift towards streaming is likely to accelerate. The period that the RIAA measured doesn’t reflect the launch of Apple’s streaming service, which began on the last day of the first half of the year.

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