Friday, August 17, 2007

Bookswim: Renting out Books the Netflix Way

This last week, I had an interesting conversation with Shamoon Siddiqui and George Burke, cofounders of Bookswim. Bookswim is a company that rents out books with the Netflix business model. Customers can get up to three books at a time for a monthly fee. The books are sent directly to the customer’s residence. There are no late fees and no postage for the customer.

I had emailed Shamoon at the request of one of my library directors, Tina Hager from the Little Elm Public Library. She had read an article about how the two were buying books from Library book sales to boost their inventory numbers. (According to the Bookswim website, their inventory currently stands at 150,000 and growing.) Tina wanted to know if NTRLS could work with Bookswim to create a partnership with NTRLS member libraries. Specifically, she wanted to know if NTRLS could arrange for Bookswim to buy book sale books from member libraries.

I am happy to report that Shamoon and George were open to the ideas of purchasing books from NTRLS libraries. They have two ways of purchasing the books. First, they will sometimes need a specific title and will pay the usual book sale amount for it. Secondly, they buy leftover books from book sales at a much reduced price (example: $2 a box). We did not discuss postage cost so I need to get back to them on this, but it sounds like a good fundraising opportunity for NTRLS libraries. I will post more as the details are worked out.

Of course, Shamoon and George took an opportunity to inform me that they have a service called Bookswim for Libraries. Here is what is on their website.

Library Partnership
We're supplementing a library network's books by allowing each library to have a special type of bookswim monthly membership that would work as follows: if a patron requests a book, the librarian can in turn request it (and others) using their bookswim membership. The books would be shipped directly to the library and then can be distributed to the patrons who had asked for them. The books are treated as your own inventory would be; you can choose a return date and impose late fines if you wish. BookSwim will be removed from this entire process. When the titles are returned, the library can package up the books and ship back to BookSwim. We can get books to your library as fast as interlibrary loan.We will always be sure to have the latest titles and popular titles, which make BookSwim a gem to use for patrons who do not wish to remain on a waiting list. All books can be delivered within a few days, as fast as some ILL orders.
The library will likely pay a monthly or yearly fee for this service and will be allowed X number of books out at a time each month or year. We don't have late fees so the library can keep titles for as long as needed. Additional advantages include speed of delivery and consolidation of shipping.This is a new program and rates can be negotiated based on your library's readership and budgetary needs.
Contact BookSwim here and be sure to include intended usage amount and budget.

Shamoon and George also write on their website, “We know that libraries have limited shelf space and must be sure that the books they carry are going to get borrowed, so rare or older titles may not be included in their collections. In addition, everyone knows how difficult it can be to borrow a bestseller or new release from the library based on limited availability and long waiting lists. Why put your patrons through that?”

I told Shamoon and George that some of the NTRLS libraries might be interested in this service. The two are willing to work with us on a consortium price and invoicing arrangements. If you are interested, please let me know. If I get enough interest, I will pursue the matter further.

If you are interested in Bookswim, Shamoon and George also told me that they are looking for willing library directors to work with them on designing different service offerings. In essence, they want a library director to help them try out new things in a pilot project format. If you are interested in helping them out, please let me know and I will set up a time for all of us to chat.

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