Thursday, September 29, 2011

Netflix for Books?

In addition to being an ardent follower of Christ and an amateur foodie, I'm a major bibliophile. I'm an author, writer, avid reader, and general student of the publishing industry. So today I'm talking book stuff, and this bit of news could become a game changer for readers, authors and the publishing industry.

You're familiar with Netflix, right?  You pay a monthly fee and get movies mailed to you for free. You return them for free when you're done with them, and they send you another movie from the list of movies you want to see. You can also stream the movies right to your TV or computer.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is planning to launch a similar lending service that would offer customers access to a large library of e-books. It would be like having access to the largest public library in the nation, on your Kindle, for an annual fee of $79. That annual fee also gets you into the Amazon Prime program, affording you free shipping on all your Amazon purchases.

For readers, this could be incredible. We now live in the information age. The number of new titles published grows each year.  In 2005, 172,000 new books were published. By 2009, that number grew to 288,000. 

Most readers find themselves with more titles they want to read than time to read them, space to store them, and money to buy them. This Amazon service could solve two of those three problems. At least for Kindle owners who currently spend more than $80 on books each year. I fall in that category.

The obvious worry, however, is that this kind of service would eat into the market that public libraries serve since they also lend out books. So lovers of local libraries like myself find themselves torn.

As anyone with publishing industry connections could imagine, many publishers aren’t thrilled with the idea. They fear the program would cut into their sales figures, devalue their books, and hurt their relationships with stores carrying the actual books at traditional prices.

Because publishers control what can be done with the electronic versions of their books, this is not a done deal yet. Publishers want the same kind of control they have over their printed books — and in the case of lending, they are trying to assert more control than they have with printed books. When you buy a physical book, you are free to sell it or lend it to whomever you wish, but e-books don’t carry those same rights.

Many bibliophiles still like to own books. They like to hold them, turn the pages, write in them, and share them with others.  So an Amazon e-book lending library isn't the end-all-be-all. Nonetheless, it's a attractive option.

The bottom line is that the nature of the book and the book industry is changing, just as virtually every other form of physical content is being affected by the move to digital formats. Amazon has been at the forefront of those changes with its Kindle and its current library-lending program. This rumored Netflix-for-books program is an indication that Amazon plans to continue pushing that transition forward.  

What do you think about this idea? Would you be likely to sign up for Amazon's "Netbookx"?

"Safe in His Arms," you are the winner of this week's giveaway. I cannot find your contact info so please email me your mailing address. Truth be told, when I couldn't find any contact info for you, I did the drawing again. Your comment came up the second time, so clearly you are meant to get this book. :) 


  1. It seems like a good idea. I would definitely consider joining Netbooks! On a side note, I lost my Kindle in June and received an email from Amazon yesterday that a kind soul had sent it to them and they are returning it to me! Isn't that amazing?

  2. Heather, that is amazing! It's encouraging to see that in this day and age someone will not only not keep something for themself, but go out of their way to return it to the owner.

    Smiles! ~Rachel

  3. I am such a sucker for an old fashioned print book. The smell of the ink and binding, the feel of the pages against my finger tips... ahh! So relaxing! I think they will always draw me most.

    Have a great week, Rachel.


  4. I love real books - I just can't read a Kindle in bed - but I love my Kindle for carrying to & from work and for when I'm travelling.

    I'm not in the US so I doubt we will get access to that kind of service any time soon but I would love it - I can devour books in a few days so it would be extremely good value for me.

  5. Jennifer & Nicki - I too really prefer an actual book to hold, flip through and underline in.

    I'm tracking with ya!

  6. Hmm...such a quandary. I love books. I love the printed word. And I love that at a library you don't have to pay money for a book that you aren't sure you're going to like. My problem lately is that I'm extremely picky about my reading material. If it doesn't grab me within a chapter, I'm outta there! That's what's been keeping me from joining the Kindle brigade.

    I might see my way clear to paying an annual fee and then play "hit or miss" in the digital realm until I find something I can sink my teeth into, though.

    Is that as clear as mud? :-)

    Have a lovely rest of your weekend, Rachel!



Chime in.