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.