September 24, 2015 Last Updated 7:25 am

Oyster business model likely unsustainable; the number of subscriptions a consumer will sign up for is not without limits

Morning Brief: US markets are set to open lower as fears of further Chinese currency devaluation, combined with concerns about US durable goods orders (not to mention that little VW mess) have Dow futures down

The book industry trade press is understandably upset by the double whammy they experienced recently, with word that eBook sales are declining, then that the eBook subscription service Oyster was folding. As TNM wrote yesterday, there are lots of reasons for declining digital edition sales, including declining tablet sales, poorly produced digital editions, and higher prices.

Then there is the fact that eBook sales may not actually be declining. In a column set to appear here later this morning, contributor Nate Hoffelder will argue that the sales statistics most repeated by the media only represent a slice of the overall market.

Oyster-icon-featureBut the question of the viability of subscription services is a legitimate one, I believe. There are limits to the number of such services on will subscribe to – TV viewers don’t normally buy a cable package, then install DirecTV, nor will many subscribe to multiple music streaming services.

Books are probably even more limiting in that readers invest a lot of time with an individual book. That they would find it useful to have unlimited access is questionable, though I believe the service does work for a few readers. That there could be many such services in existence and succeeding, though, seems unlikely. And unlike the magazine industry, where publishers are willing to add their titles to any newsstand, book publishers appear to want a little more control, at least over pricing.

There is no barrier to entry to the digital newsstand or bookstore market, but there is a huge barrier to entry to creating a successful business model. Oyster was paying publishers too much, and charging customers too little to make their model work. In the end, it was the system they created that was of value, which is why at least some of the team has now moved over to Google, according to Re/code.

It will be interesting to see exactly what the limits are as to the number of music streaming services a consumer will sign up for. Apple will likely mention their Apple Music numbers at their October earnings conference call, but it will take a full year before we really know how well Apple is doing, and how this will effect Spotify, Pandora and other services.

It looked like the August slump in stock prices might not be repeated in September, but the month is ending on a sour note thanks to Volkswagen, more bad economic news out of China, as well as a slowing in US manufacturing.

Markets in Europe are down about one and a half percent today and US markets are set to open lower, as well.

Of particular concern is China, which may well devalue its currency again to try and stimulate exports.

But then again, there is that VW story, which some believe could explode again if it is discovered that other car markers were also using software to cheat emission tests.

ThinkProgress became the latest website to move to unionize, joining the Writers Guild of America, East. Salon, Gawker, and Vice have made similar moves to join the Writers Guild, while the US staff of The Guardian recently joined the NewsGuild-CWA.

“Here at ThinkProgress, we believe having a union will help us protect and elevate the good conditions we currently enjoy in our workplace, both for ourselves and for all who come after us,” the staff wrote in a letter to management. “This security will ensure we continue to create the cutting-edge, high-quality, and editorially independent journalism ThinkProgress is known for long into the future.”

“The men and women who write, edit and produce stories at ThinkProgress join hundreds of others in digital media who recognize the power of collective bargaining,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGA East.

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