Bookswim is being touted as Netflix for books. The service is not online yet, but the premise is identical: you pay a monthly subscription fee, pay no shipping, and Book Swim will mail you the next book on your list.
Funny, except for the mailing part I get the exact same service from the Hennepin County Library by managing my account online and reserving books. I put reserved books "On Hold" so that I can read through the ones I have at home (currently 9 books) before my next book becomes available. Then I remove the suspended hold and lo, my next book quickly becomes available.
I stop by the library on my way home so I don't even go out of my way to stop by the library (except on saturdays, but that's just for pleasure).
Oh yeah, I don't pay for the service my local library system gives me.
The only advantage that I see Bookswim having is that it claims to have New Releases. The local library may have a new release on a purchasing request and thus delaying the arrival of a book which isn't the most popular item, and then the popular items tend to have long hold lists. Want to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when it comes out? Well, don't wait to put your hold down because there are already 1502 holds on that book. It might be published this summer and at the moment there are only 26 copies on order (I expect that number to climb).
So, if Bookswim can get me Harry Potter 7 the first week it comes out then maybe there is some merit to the service.
But maybe not. If Harry Potter 7 has 1502 people in Hennepin County, not counting Minneapolis which has its own library system, wishing to reserve the book at least 7 months before it might possibly be released, then why do I think that Bookswim, a nationwide service, would be able to handle the volume needed to get everyone the book they want in a reasonable amount of time that surpasses the free library service.
And then there is the question of how they will make money. I assume most people do not read as fast as I do (10 or so books a month on average), but like Netflix, Bookswim would have to make money on low borrowers because the mailing cost of a book, even shipped media mail (which thus slows down the shipping process) is more expensive than metering a DVD through 1st Class Mail. So, higher shipping costs. The service needs to be cheap enough to get people to want to use it. That would be less than $20 a month, probably closer to $10. But at $10 a month they need people who will rent 1-2 books a month at the most. I would kill the service but I wouldn't be able to have enough books out a time. I imagine. Sure, I wouldn't have to leave the house to get my book, but if you manage your time and reserve books online, you can stop by on the way to or from work to drop off a book and pick a new one up.
If the popular titles will have a waiting list at Bookswim, and also at the library, then I don't see that even that aspect of the service would be of benefit.
I'll stick with the library, thank you very much.
And if I need to purchase a used book, rather than rent a used book I can always use
So really. Tell me, Bookswim. How does your service benefit me?