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Earlier this year we reported on NY-based book rental service BookSwim expanding to textbooks. Today I have another Netflix-style book rental service to check out. It’s called BooksFree (although the books aren’t free) and in addition to renting books, they also rent audiobooks in a monthly format.
Monthly book rental plans start at $9.99 for 2 books at a time (in batches) all the way up to $47.99 for 15 books at a time (which circulate in multiple orders). Basically the $9.99 means you get two books, you send back two and then they send two more. The multiple orders means you can send back one of the two and get one more and never be without a book.
Audiobook CDs and MP3-CDs rental pricing begins at $22.49/month and goes up to $62.49/month. There are also plans that mix books and CDs.
I did notice that their rotating production offering (displayed below) does not actually work – I wonder if they have lost any customers because the "Sign Up" button doesn’t click to anywhere. With the popularity of Twitter, they might look at allowing their customers to tweet which books they have rented.
The Avid Reader blog has a good review of the service. BooksFree notes that their library has over 170,000 total titles for rent. For heavy readers, it looks like a convenient service and you have a better chance of actually receiving the specific book you want unlike the public library. Now if they offered technical books, that’d be hot. Of course those change so often, there’s probably no market for renting developer manuals, etc.
We initially covered NY-based BookSwim when they launched their application and posted a video demo of their service about a year ago. BookSwim is a book rental service similar to Netflix/Blockbuster for movies.
This week they launched a new rental option: college textbooks. You can now rent college textbooks on BookSwim for either a month or a semester. You can search for your books via ISBN and title search options.
In my testing for a variety of accounting textbooks, the semester-rental price appeared to be about half of the Amazon price. From my days working in the college bookstore, accounting textbooks typically returned 40% if they were going to be used in the following semester. So it looks like the rental would work out to about the same as if you purchased and then returned the book to the store at the end of the semester. The benefit of the rental is that you don’t have to worry that the book won’t be purchased at the end of the semester because then you lost the full value.
Considering the weight of some of today’s textbooks, I can only imagine what the shipping costs must be like for this program. But I like the idea overall and anywhere students can save money is a good thing. Check out more on MediaBistro.
BookSwim presented at the September NY Tech Meetup. BookSwim is a book rental service similar to Netflix/Blockbuster for movies. While they didn't want to speak about price or show a live demo (no idea why!) it appears the service is $19.95 a month. They noted that while they claim to offer 150,000 books, they don't have those in inventory. They use a JIT (just-in-time) inventory model which allows them to keep costs low.
The idea came about from sitting in bookstores reading the initial chapters of books and only buying one or two. BookSwim is helping you to "try before you buy". It's basically a rolling library which you pay a monthly charge for. It's an interesting model, the shipping charges alone could be killer for them – they don't note how long it takes to receive the books. I also see they are seeking funding – here are their funding documents.
Here is their video demo: