Now Appearing in Your Mailbox: Are Rentals the Next Big Book Channel?

BookSwimThe book industry supports many book channels.  The largest traditional venues for books are:

  • Bookstores
  • Libraries
  • Catalogs
  • Book clubs
  • Non-bookstore merchandisers

Now you can add another to the list – rental books.  Lifehacker reported on a new service called BookSwim.  The rental process mirrors that of the popular movie rental service NetFlix.  It works like this:

  1. Create your list of books online
  2. BookSim ships books from your list
  3. You keep each book for as long as you want.  (There are no late fees.)
  4. You return finished books in the mail using prepaid mailers from BookSwim and BookSwim sends new ones from your list. 

BookSwim rental modelThe service charges $20 per month.  This allows you to rent 3 books at a time.  For $36 per month, you can rent up to 11 books at a time.  Currently, the service has only 150,000 titles in 27 categories, but the available stock is expanding.  The service allows you to buy a book you really like online.  Purchasing a book counts as a return.

Another book rental service is  Its model works essentially the same as BookSwim.  The title base is somewhat smaller – 79,800 books, 18,000 audiobooks.  Pricing varies by the number and type of books you rent.  For hardcover or paperback books, prices range from $10 per month for 2 books, up to $38 per month for 12 books.  For audiobooks, the prices range from $22.50 per month for 2 audiobooks at a time, up to $42.50 per month for 4 audiobooks.  There are specialty services for audiobooks – e.g. SimplyAudioBooks and Jiggerbug.  A couple of years ago, it was reported in the Wall Street Jounral that even Google was exploring the possibility of renting books. 

too many booksIt remains to be seen how popular book rentals will become.  However, they currently offer readers a lower cost alternative to read books that are popular, but may not be available at a library.  Also, rentals help space conscious readers avoid the necessity to find physical storage for books they have already read.  As book prices rise in response to inflationary pressures, publishers might do well to examine the economics of movie rentals to see how rentals might impact the for purchase book market.

This entry was posted in book marketing, publishing analytics, publishing strategy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.