Like Netflix for Books

The other day I was thinking. I know, bad opening, so sue me. At any rate, I had just been to the local library to pay a late fine (all of 10 cents!), and the thought struck me; wouldn’t it be great if there was a Netflix, only for books? No late fees, keep a book as long as you like; mail it in when you’re done and they’ll mail you back a new book from your list. But what would one pay for such convenience? I was checking out options online – surely I wasn’t the only one to think of extending the Netflix concept to books? As it turns out, I wasn’t; there are quite a few businesses following the Netflix model.

Two businesses, Bookswim and Booksfree, have an actual book rental program, starting at $15 and $10 a month respectively. For that price, you can keep 2 books at a time, for as long as you want, and mail them back to get new ones. Two others I stumbled upon, PaperBackSwap and America’s BookShelf, are really more of a book sharing program than a rental service; in order to get books, you need to share the books you have currently.

My problem with both of those models is that a) I’m cheap and b) I’m possessive. I’m not going to pay $10+ a month in order to rent books, when I can buy a new book for that price. And I’ve never been the type to trade in old for new; not with video games or movies, and certainly not with books. The only time I’ve ever gotten rid of a book is when I outgrew a children’s series (The Babysitter’s Club books, The Goosebumps series).

Clearly what I need is an improvement on the current (free) library model. I can understand how it would be cost prohibitive for a library to ship books to individuals, so I understand that would probably never be implemented. I also understand that they have a finite quantity of individual titles, and can’t let someone keep a book forever when other patrons are waiting for it. What they CAN do, though, is improve their online interface and introduce a queue. In this day and age, I should be able to update my mailing address, email address and other contact information online – they have my email address linked to my library card number, as I can receive alerts when a book is due. Once the online interface is brought up-to-date, a queue of books and authors you’d like alerts for should be easily done. The “hold” system already manages this to a point – you can basically reserve up to 10 books, and you’ll be alerted when they’re available. The queue would be like a pre-hold; books you’re interested in reading at some point in the future, but not immediately. When you’re ready, you could move the book from queue to hold, and pick it up from the library when it becomes available. I don’t think these type of changes would be too terribly difficult to implement, and would go a long way in increasing the usability and convenience of the library.