August 1, 2014 Last Updated 7:22 am

Oyster adds bookmarks, in-app purchases; Microsoft updates iOS apps, adds PDF making

Introduction of Kindle Unlimited by Amazon forces other eBook subscription services to up their games, add new features and options

With Amazon entering the eBook subscription business with Kindle Unlimited, the other subscription services are in a bit of an arms race to make sure readers choose their service rather than migrate to Amazon.

Oyster-iphone-smOne way to do this, a step few have taken so far, is to allow iOS device owners to buy their service directly through their device. The problem, of course, is that Apple then gets its 30 percent cut of sales.

But Oyster has decided to go in this direction, adding an in-app purchase option that allows readers to buy into their service. The option comes in an update to the iOS app, called Oyster – Read Unlimited Books. Readers can now buy subscriptions of 1, 6 or 12 months in length, priced at $10.99, $59.99 or $109.99.

The update, which brings the app up to version 1.8, also adds bookmarks, a feature I’m sure readers have been demanding for a while.

Microsoft has issued major updates to its Office iOS apps, bringing up the apps to version 1.1.

The biggest feature addition to Excel, Word and PowerPoint is the ability now to send your files as PDFs.

The update to Word adds picture tools, while the PowerPoint update now adds some multimedia features such as the ability to play media during a presentation, or the ability to add in video from the device’s camera roll into a presentation.

The apps from Microsoft, first introduced this March, are getting lukewarm reviews by users in the App Store. The biggest complaint is simply that the apps cost too much. Apple has cut its prices for its productivity apps, then reduced them to free, putting pressure on Microsoft – and no doubt cutting into its revenue. The situation is entirely Microsoft’s fault, of course, as they refused to launch apps much earlier to avoid spurring on iOS device sales. Then, when they were launching their own tablets, they decided to launch these apps – an example of one hand not knowing what they other is doing, I suppose.

But when looking at only the user reviews that discuss the quality of the apps, the impression is that users are happy with them. They’ll be even happier after these major updates.

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