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Likely Stories

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Keir Graff and editors from Booklist's adult and youth departments write candidly about books, book reviewing, and the publishing industry

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Thursday, May 17, 2007 1:22 pm
A Company Whose Stock I Won’t Be Buying
Posted by: Keir Graff

BookSwim. Which I learned about from Galleycat (“Another “NetFlix for Books” Idea“):

This time the company is BookSwim, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has more on the fledgling company based out of New Jersey. For $15 to $20 per month, the company will send your top five book choices. Return three books in a prepaid envelope, and your next three choices will be mailed to you.

Why would people pay to borrow books instead of getting them for free at their local libraries?

…”the big complaint is most libraries have working hours — they typically close at 5 p.m.,” Siddiqui said. And someone may have checked out the book you want.

This reminds me of those commercials where they try to sell you a new gadget by showing you how hard it is to do a task the old way — and when the old way is perfectly easy. The first one I remember seeing was when they started putting plastic screw-tops on milk and juice cartons. The “before” concept, always filmed in black-and-white, was illustrated by five-thumbed wonders who struggled to open old-fashioned milk cartons (granted, that’s some pretty challenging technology), dousing themselves with milk and juice in the process.

(There must be an industry term* for that kind of commercial. And there must be examples on YouTube. But I need help with my search strategy.)

I’m no businessman, but I always thought the idea was to find an unmet need and meet it rather than convince people their needs aren’t being met. But what do I know? Milk cartons have plastic screw-tops now.

*Just talked to my friend Carlos. He and his wife, Andie, call this the “black-and-white world — where everything goes wrong and insurance rates are through the roof.” See the Table-Mate II, for instance.



5 Responses to “A Company Whose Stock I Won’t Be Buying”
  1. Serena Says:

    I find this ridiculous. And now a days alot of libraries are open late. The library system I work at in Charlotte is open until 9 pm Mondays-Thursdays and until 6 Fridays-Sunday. Anyone who pays for that service has a few screws loose.

  2. George Burke Says:

    Hi there, George here from BookSwim. Thanks for the praise, hehe. Just so you know, I should hope that every single one of our patrons utilizes their local library services on a regular basis. It’s a great place to kick back, relax and read. I love going to the Old Bridge NJ public library.

    We only started this service in response to many people who are used to the Netflix and Blockbuster Online services and would like to apply that model to books.

  3. Keir Says:

    George, glad you have a sense of humor. I’ll be surprised if the Netflix model translates to books — I don’t think reading is analogous to movie-watching — but if you succeed, I’ll write about that, too.

  4. Likely Stories » Blog Archive » BookSinking? Says:

    [...] An update on the previously discussed BookSwim, which now has “a few hundred” members. (Surely champagne corks are popping in investors’ boardrooms.) It came as news to me that there is an extremely similar company, (disclaimer: the books are not actually free), that has been in operation for seven years. From Publishers Weekly (”Netflix Book Model Draws Competitors,” by Lynn Andriani): Burke and Siddiqui said they are looking to bring libraries on as customers, at a reduced rate, to expand libraries’ inventories. The company is working on a pilot program with one of its local libraries, but would not release the library’s name. The founders also want to include publishers in their venture, since as Burke said, “It’s very burdensome for us to have to purchase all our inventory; it’s very costly up front.” He and Siddiqui would like to embark on a revenue-sharing program with publishers, wherein they would pay publishers each time one of their books are rented. However, Burke has not approached any large publishers yet. [...]

  5. Book Blog - Likely Stories, by Keir Graff - Booklist Online » Blog Archive » Everything’s Coming Up Netflix! Says:

    [...] Hmm…where have I heard this before? [...]

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