Google has hired several senior executives from Oyster, an online book subscription service that this week announced plans to shut down its operations permanently.
Among the executives who have already joined or will be joining Google from Oyster are CEO Eric Stromberg and company co-founders Andrew Brown and Willem Van Lancker, Recode reported Monday. The three executives will reportedly join Google's Play Books operation, though it is not immediately clear what exactly their new roles will be.
Google has hired several other Oyster employees as well in what some media reports described as an "acquihire" by the company. "Acquihire" is a relatively recent term that describes a situation in which a struggling company is acquired primarily for its talent.
In an emailed comment to eWEEK, a member of Google's press team confirmed that a portion of Oyster's team has joined Google Play Books, but offered no other information. "We aren't sharing additional details at this time," the spokesperson said.
Oyster, which launched two years ago, basically offers an online subscription service where, for $9.95 a month, members can get access to some 1 million books to read or buy online. The company claims that its collection includes new releases, award-winning titles and indie authors.
The service is available over the Web, on iOS and Android devices, and on Nook HD and Kindle Fire.
In a blog post announcing its shutdown plans, Oyster executives expressed confidence that ebooks and mobile devices will become the primary mechanisms for consuming books in the next few years. "As we continue on, we couldn't be more excited about the future of ebooks and mobile reading," the blog said. "We believe more than ever that the phone will be the primary reading device globally over the next decade."
To fully realize its vision for ebooks, the Oyster team will be taking on new opportunities while killing off the current service, the blog said.
Some have compared Oyster to a Netflix for books on the Internet. Google's hiring of Oyster's top talent could be a signal that the company is planning on entering the same space soon.
In recent years, Google has ventured into innumerable markets that have had almost nothing to do with its core Internet search business. By that measure at least, any move that the company makes into a Netflix-like ebook subscription service wouldn't take it into completely new territory.
Google Books already gives Internet users a way to search for books and magazines online and to read a preview of the book or in some cases the entire content of the publication for free. Web users can use Google Books to locate places where they can either buy or borrow a specific book and find reviews and Web references for the title.
Google currently allows authors and publishers to submit books for inclusion in Google Books' search results. The company is also trying to get major libraries to submit their collections to Google Books so users have a way to search for them online.