Ask The Editor

November 23, 2008

Online library lets you rent the books you want to read

Filed under: Commentary,The Publishing Biz — editorialconsultant @ 10:11 am

Bookswim’s business model is like NetFlix’s: choose the books on your wishlist and Bookswim sends them to you, postage-paid. You return them when you like in a postage-paid envelope, and get sent the next few on your list. It’s a great concept. Free local libraries often have months-long waiting lists for popular books. And, for the obsessive reader, buying all those bestsellers can be expensive.

But Bookswim is a tad pricey and that makes me wonder whether it’s really going to take off. I checked Amazon’s prices for a few of the books on Bookswim’s most popular rentals list: BREAKING DAWN (part of the popular “Twilight” vampire YA series) costs $12.64, new. LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA can be had for as little as $10.17, new. THE SECRET is $13, new. Total cost of buying the first three on the list is then $35.81 vs $19.98 to rent, a savings of $15.83.

But if you’re more interested in books other than the three most popular, savings get iffy. Number 4 in popularity, ECLIPSE, will cost you $10.99 and two other “Twilight” series books, TWILIGHT and NEW MOON go for $6.04, each. So, you can buy those three for $23.07 (plus shipping) versus renting them for $19.98.

Bookswim gives you the first month for about half the regular cost: $9.95 for three books at a time vs $19.98 thereafter. Or, you can choose to rent 5, 7, or 11 books at a time for higher monthly fees (each plan gives you the first month for about half the regular rate).

Speaking just for me, while I love the idea of Bookswim, I’m more likely to buy the books I want to read if the difference in cost between renting and buying is minimal. How about you?

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