Carrie McBride
Jul 11, 2007

Are you swimming in books at your house? We are devoted users of our public library, but we still seem to accumulate plenty of books - paperback thrillers bought at the airport during 6 hour layovers, Thai cookbooks picked up at local stoop sales, well-intentioned gifts whose spines never got cracked. Bookswim is hoping to do for books what Netflix has done for movies. Instead of buying books, now you can rent them via a monthly membership.

The service works much like Netflix: your family creates an online list of books, 3-11 books are mailed to you (depending on your membership plan), you take as long as you want to read them, you return the books, 2-3 at a time, in a pre-stamped envelope and, voila, new books are sent in their place. If you find you love a book and want to keep it you pay a "deeply discounted" price. Monthly memberships range from $19.99 - $35.99.

Bookswim launched in May and has over 150,000 titles to choose from. We checked out their children's book collection which has almost 14,000 titles and found it to be pretty good. Your tweens and teens may be happy to find many Manga titles which are both expensive to buy and hard to find at the library.

We happen to live in a city with a wonderful public library system and we can't really imagine using Bookswim, but not everyone is as fortunate. Our sister, for instance, lives in a rural area with a tiny library run by volunteers which is only open a few hours a week. She's grateful to have it, but she ends up buying most of her books and then pawning them off on friends (and siblings!) when she's done. Also, with libraries facing severe budget cutbacks many have shortened their hours making it harder for families, especially those with two working parents, to get there when they're open.

A similar service, Booksfree, has cheaper monthly fees, but has a smaller selection and does not include children's books.

What do you think? Would you give Bookswim a try?

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