Netflix for Books

Netflix for books. Will it work?

Bookins, Frugal Reader and Title Trader are giving it a shot. But they’re putting an interesting twist on it; they’re not “renting” new books, they’re connecting consumers through their website and allowing them to trade books with each other. Bookins charges $3.99 per book received, including postage, but it’s free to ship a book. Title Trader and Frugal Reader are free, but you have to pay for postage separately, which is around $1.50 for a paperback book.

The question is: since it worked for movies, can it work for books?

Even though the book industry is half the size of the movie industry ($23.7 billion vs. $44.8 billion in 2004), the culture of the book world is to purchase, while the culture of the movie industry is to rent. A cultural change will have to occur for these new services to work, and that will take time and money.

The “owning over renting” mentality is a big hurdle for the book traders to overcome. While die-hard paperback readers will likely be the first to join these services, making the leap to the masses (i.e. crossing the chasm) will be a tough one, surely requiring extensive marketing. Though I’m typically opposed to venture funding, once the early adopters have proven the concept works these companies are going to need funds to make this work with the masses.

With two of the three players giving their services away for free, it will be interesting to see what happens.

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7 comments ↓

#1 Scott Mitchell on 09.12.05 at 3:39 pm

I use FrugalReader myself and have probably “rented” maybe a dozen books. It’s an ok service, although I’ve found maybe 10% of the “requests” never arrive. Some folks have it to you real quick, others take forever or just don’t ship. I guess there’s no real incentive other than being a good netizen and wanting to be able to “rent” more books from others. Also, the stock available through FrugalReader is a little sad. It’s mostly best sellers, pop trash, etc. I’ve used it primarily for business books myself, since I’m not a big fan of the potboiler fiction books, which dominate the library there.

#2 http:// on 09.12.05 at 4:17 pm

I really like this idea as I read about a book a week. I will have to check out these services. Anyone have any reviews on the other services?

#3 Jeremy Cunningham on 09.13.05 at 5:10 pm

I decided to go with PaperbackSwap.com. They have a nice interface TONS of books and nice lists that you can keep. They have lists including To be read (TBR), Book I’ve Read, and Wish list. It is very easy to read and they even have live chat with other members to ask questions to. With the first 9 books listed you get 3 free books. I signed up last night and already have 2 books on there way to me. If you like it use Acruix as the referal 🙂 then I get a free book…. http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php?r_by=Acruix

#4 http:// on 09.15.05 at 4:38 am

I’ve seen all these services, and joined Bookins. It seems the most straightforward, and their automated technology is very cool: they let you print prepaid postage, they track all shipment, they all the matches, etc… its just very easy to use.

#5 http:// on 09.20.05 at 4:57 pm

My wife uses Books Free, which is exactly like Netflix – 4 books out at any one time, mailers supplied to return the books, queue of books to send next.

#6 Chris Yeh on 10.02.05 at 3:12 pm

I’m just not sure that these businesses really provide a significant advantage over a plain old library. Have we gotten so lazy that we can’t drive 5 minutes to a library once every few weeks?

#7 rwalling on 10.03.05 at 2:22 am

That’s a good point, Chris, but I think you’ve overlooked one thing: With their lack of funding, libraries today don’t carry many *any?) technical books from the past few years, and don’t often have new releases at all. If you want something published in the past 6-12 months it’s a good bet you’re local library is not going to have it.