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July 9, 2014

Review: Unlimited e-book services offer plenty

Spanish Fork, Utah — Two startups are trying to do for e-books what Netflix does for movies.

Oyster and Scribd let you read as many books as you want for a monthly price — $10 for Oyster and $9 for Scribd.

I was skeptical at first. I can never find enough time to read, and I'm picky about what I do read. I was worried about their limited book selections.

But I found plenty to read in no time, and I found myself reading more than I normally would. These services are great if you have a long weekend or a vacation coming up, or in my case three weeks of travels from California to New York.

Just don't think it'll be the same as walking into a library and finding just about any book you want.

— THE SELECTION:

I checked several titles from my wish list and asked colleagues for other suggestions, including a few for kids or in foreign languages. Of the 75 I checked, Oyster had 17 and Scribd had 16. For some popular novels, such as "The Hunger Games" series and "A Fault in Our Stars," I got readers' guides and other companions, but not the actual books.

Both services have selected titles from Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and lots of smaller publishers, but other major U.S. publishers — Hachette, Macmillan and Penguin Random House — remain holdouts. And even when there's a deal with a publisher, newer books tend to be excluded.

Avid readers won't be bored, though. When I signed up, Scribd asked about the types of books I like. Oyster didn't but still made good recommendations based on what other subscribers are reading.

I quickly found about two dozen books between the two services. Each time I added a title, I got recommendations for more. I just finished books on lobster populations and the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company. I'm now reading about Lance Armstrong and the doping scandal — another book I wouldn't have known about if it hadn't popped up on Scribd.

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