Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Netflix for books

Background: once upon a time, when Amazon.com just went public, I said something like, "Why would anyone want to buy books on the internet? Half the fun of buying books is browsing a bookstore!" Another great moment in personal financial stupidity. Nevertheless, there's now a company that wants to emulate Netflix by renting books online, by subscription. Exactly what is the difference between this and a library? At least, for Amazon and Netflix, they are competing with for-profit businesses. Paperspine's competition is your local library, which likely also has an online catalog. Is it worth $10 a month or more to not have to pop by the library?

4 comments:

  1. Where I live, libraries do indeed allow you to borrow DVDs. Check at your local library, I would be surprised if the same is not true.

    However, libraries are more conservative. They buy less new stuff, and throw away less old stuff. This comes from their mandate.

    So, if Paperspine competes against libraries, then your local IT training companies compete against UW, right?

    What I went to see is whether they have good recommender systems....

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  2. BookSwim.com is out there doing this, too, only they have hardcovers, as well (and they also don't charge for shipping, unlike this new company you mentioned). I don't think it competes with your local library as much as it competes with your local bookstore. People who use the library will still use it, and people who buy books because, for whatever reason, the library isn't for them, now have the alternative to rent books from BookSwim.com for less money than buying new books.

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  3. Our library (King County Libraries) has DVDs, and it's easy to put holds on them via the web and be notified via email when one comes in. But, given the demand for popular videos, it can be much of a year before they become available. Hence, video rental is a viable business. It's much more unusual for the wait for a book to be significant.

    I'm not sure that these businesses compete with bookstores. Unless you think that being able to read a book before buying it (but paying a monthly fee for that privilege) is very attractive.

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  4. Our library (King County Libraries) has DVDs, and it's easy to put holds on them via the web and be notified via email when one comes in. But, given the demand for popular videos, it can be much of a year before they become available. Hence, video rental is a viable business. It's much more unusual for the wait for a book to be significant.

    I'm not sure that these businesses compete with bookstores. Unless you think that being able to read a book before buying it (but paying a monthly fee for that privilege) is very attractive.

    ReplyDelete