ipad Library

First we had Oyster, then Scribd got into it, and now the US has another subscription ebooks service: Entitle.

Entitle launches today after a four-month beta period under what is one of the worst imaginable names for such a service: eReatah. Like Oyster and Scribd, the service asks users to pay a set monthly fee to get access to a certain number of ebooks. Unlike its competitors, however, Entitle lets subscribers own the books – so they can keep them even if they leave the service.

Ownership comes at a price, though. While Oyster and Scribd charge $9.95 and $8.99 respectively, Entitle costs $14.99 for two books a month, $21.99 for three books, and $27.99 for four books. The price for the cheapest option is down $2 a month from the beta period, which is perhaps an acknowledgement of how difficult it will be for Entitle to compete against the much cheaper Oyster and Scribd. It is clearly targeted at power readers, but $15 a month for two books is a lot to ask for any media service. That’s $60 a year more expensive, for example, than Spotify, which gives you access to most of the world’s music.

At those prices, and with so few titles available to download each month, it will also be difficult for the company to prove that it offers a superior product to that offered by Amazon, which gives its Prime members free access to the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which offers one free book per month.

Entitle offers more than 100,000 titles to choose from and includes a range of publishers, including two of the majors, Harper Collins (just the back catalogue) and Simon & Schuster (complete catalogue, including all new releases). While there are plenty of independent publishers on board, there are so far no self-published titles available for Entitle, which, let’s face it, is a blessing.

The North Carolina-based startup has raised $5.3 million – $3.3 million in straight equity, with another $2 million in debt sitting on hand – which seems a very high amount for such an early stage company, especially considering it has only six full-time staff. The funding comes from an unnamed angel investor who made his money outside of tech.

Entitle is available on iOS and Android, including Kindle Fire, and the Nook and Kobo tablets. It also comes with a recommendation system built by the second-placed team in the Netflix Prize, The Ensemble.