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BookSwim – Netflix for Books…

Apr - 23 - 2009
Nicole C. Engard

I just learned about a new service – BookSwim – that is pretty much Netflix for books (although a bit more expensive to use).

BookSwim is the first online book rental library service lending you paperbacks, hardcovers and now college textbooks Netflix®-style directly to your house, without the need to purchase!

I guess I can see how this would be useful for those who don’t live near a library – but why the heck would I want to pay nearly $20 a month to rent books? I can go to the library and rent books for free.

BookSwim does address the “Why not just go to a library?” question – but not to my satisfaction:

  • Late fees (never with BookSwim)

  • Limited hours (browse BookSwim in your pajamas at 3am if you’d like)
  • Limited selections (can’t find a book on BookSwim.com? Let us know and we’ll buy it!)
  • Long waiting lists for popular titles (we buy plenty of copies to slash your wait time)
  • Location, location, location (what could be closer than your own home?)

* That said, BookSwim is a terrific suppliment for avid library users, as BookSwim encourages members to use the library if/when possible.

Okay, first, I have never accrued $20 in late fees during one month :) — but maybe I’m just an unusual library patron. Second, I can browse my library’s online catalog at 3am in my PJs if I want to. Third, most libraries offer the option to allow patrons to make purchase suggestions – or get titles via inter-library loan. Fourth, okay – this one I agree with – but for $20 I can go out and buy that popular title this month. Fifth, it is nice to have the books delivered to my door – which is why I used to use my library’s mail order service when I was a kid :)

Now, I’m not completely negative about this! The one great thing about this might be the textbooks. For the price it might actually be cheaper to keep a textbook for the term from BookSwim than it would be to buy the textbook – and you would never be able to keep the book from the library that long. If you ask me – this is the audience (college students) that BookSwim should focus on.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Kaitlyn says:

    That’s just way too expensive. At first on their website I saw “Just $9.95 !”… then I realized that’s only for your *first* month. I’d definitely pay $10/month for something like this (and have actually thought about it before this existed), just for graphic novels. I go through them quickly, they cost $15-20 apiece, and the library frequently doesn’t have them, or the next in a series is checked out. For $10/month it would be a good deal. For $20/month, if a college student wanted to rent a textbook for an entire semester, it would still be over $100. Crazy.

  2. Nicole says:

    Kaitlyn, I was thinking if they rented 3 books – that’s 3 books for $100 instead of $300 :) But I do agree – it’s too much to pay.

  3. polyalida says:

    I think the only thing wrong with their model is the price point. Cheaper and people would use it more. I’ve been hearing about BookSwim for a few years now, but I’ve never met anyone who actually used it. What I’d love to see is more libraries adopting this sort of model. We have pieces of it in place, but it’s rarely as speedy or flexible as the BookSwim/NetFlix model.


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