Book Rental…

So these past few weeks, I’ve been hearing this commercial on the radio touting that they’re the Netflix of books, where you pay a monthly subscription and you can rent out 2, 3, or 4 books at a time. There’s no late fees and the books are mailed to your door. This struck me immediately as very odd since this sounds like a service that wants to replace the library which is a FREE service.

Fuzzywuzzy posted this screenshot:
book rental service

book rental service? – Selekta

was just thinking. my sister does -alot- of reading, and spends like $1000 a year on just books alone. most of them she reads once then never looks at again. is there any kind of like…video rental store but for books? would make things alot cheaper, plus once one person has read the next person can get enjoyment from it etc

And this prompted me to blog about it. I don’t exactly recall the name of the book rental service that was advertised on the radio, but BookSwim sounds awfully close. There was also, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the one that was advertised on the radio. I understand libraries can sometimes be horrible, but as library gets more and more modernized, I can’t see a book rental service as hardly useful. The libraries here in Seattle allows you to reserve books online and when the book is ready for pickup, it sends you an email.

I talked this over a bit with RayAlome, and there are some downsides to the library:

  • Books have due dates (usually ~2 weeks). They can typically be renewed, unless it’s new or someone else has reserved it.
  • There might be a long queue for new books (i.e. Harry Potter), but just like Netflix, I don’t think a book rental service can guarantee you’ll get new releases immediately either, but they might be faster than the library in getting you the book.
  • You have to actually go to the library to pick up your book, instead of having them mail it to you.

I also found some problems that a book rental service has that a DVD service doesn’t. First, books comes in different shapes and sizes, while DVDs are a 1 size fit all. Therefore packaging material needs to be customized or be highly flexible. Books aren’t exactly light either, though with medial mail, you can still ship 2lbs for under $3. However, that might mean it’ll take up to 8 days for the book to get to you and going back also takes that amount of time. I don’t see them having warehouses in different parts of the country set up like Netflix, since they’re barely starting, but maybe they’ll have some sort of agreement with USPS or UPS to have faster shipping for cheap.

We also talked about the Kindle, but that’s a story for another time.

6 Replies to “Book Rental…”

  1. Actually, such services exist in Asia countries like Japan, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore etc. Except that they are brick-and-mortar stores.

  2. For singapore, the main reason why B&M rentals still survive is that they stock popular books, e.g. S-F, Fantasy, thrillers and romance novels, that libraries have pretty small collections of. Or as in the case of Harry Potter, demand is much greater than supply, I believe there is still a waiting line for harry potter books at local libraries.

    You can actually see what libraries in Singapore stock by going to and click on the catalogue.

  3. I’m considering one of these services, since I read about 1,000 words a minute and have a 6month daughter. Taking her anywhere is time consuming, and babies are not welcome in places that value quiet, like libraries and bookstores. Also, I frequently want books that libraries just don’t have – at least my local library. And ILL a) costs money anyway, and b) often you just can’t get the books you want. Since I currently spend about $125/month on books anyway, this would be a lot cheaper.

  4. In Australia we have some book stores which mainly stock older books (hardly ever any new release type stuff), but the books are fairly cheap and once you’re finished reading them you can return them and receive a portion of the money you paid for the book back. So in essence you’re paying a fee for borrowing it, but if you found it the best book in the world you have the option to just keep it.

    Like I said, the books are mainly old almost all second hand before they hit this shop. It’s still a good way to get books without the time limits of a library. I’m thinking it’s probably about as good as a book rental business model as you’ll get. If you put new release books into the equation and tried to run it like a video store you’d have to put time limits otherwise what would stop one person hiring the book reading it in say 1-4weeks depending on the book then giving it to all their friends to read before returning it. Then the book rental store might not get the book back for 6months or so by which time it’s no longer new release and they can’t make back enough money on it to make the business viable.

  5. I think the point here is that you pay a monthly fee so they don’t really care how long you check out a book. You can checkout x # of books at a time, and when you return 1, you can checkout another.

    Since you’re paying a monthly fee, they wouldn’t care if you let all your friends and relatives borrow the book.

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