Borrow to Buy: e-book equivalent of Rent to Own?
An idea just occurred to me, which I think we may see widely implemented in a variety of ways.
My guess is that there has already been some thought of it in the places that would make it happen…it’s just not something that has been promoted yet.
The basic idea is this:
Make it super easy to start reading a book, so that people then discover the book that way and buy it.
I would say that many people, having gotten a few chapters into a book and who are finding it interesting, would then really want to finish it.
Let me give you one possible application.
I recently wrote about Kindle vending machines in a humor piece:
I even suggested that you might be able to rent the Kindle that way.
Just a few days ago, in this
I read that Amazon had done exactly that (a Kindle vending machine) at CES (the Consumer Electronics Show).
They didn’t mention it for rentals, just for retail, but it does make sense.
Then, I was thinking about flights, and the impact Kindles have on airport bookstores.
I was thinking that there could be a rent and return system for Kindle vending machines. You would pay maybe five dollars to get the Kindle out of a machine in, say, New York, and return it to a machine in Los Angeles.
What happens then to the book you started reading if you hadn’t finished it? You could temporarily register the device to your own account, but they’d have to be sure it got deregistered at the other end to prevent serious consumer risk. They’d also have to wipe the devices (both of data and hygienically, of course) each time.
This would appeal to people if they forgot their own device, if their device failed, or if they wanted to try out a Kindle (maybe a different model).
Would people pay $5 for it? What if it was free, and it didn’t need to be registered to their own account? That would really simplify things.
Who would pay for the devices?
Publishers…at least in part.
Let’s move this from the store to the airline.
You get on the plane. There is a Kindle in the seat pocket (it could be connected with a cable, although I think that’s probably not necessary).
The Kindle has some books on it. It could also have magazines/newspapers, although I don’t think that would work as well.
You can just pick the Kindle up and start reading on it.
During the flight, you don’t finish the book, although you find a book you like and get into it substantially.
At the end of the flight (or whenever you want), you can log into your own Amazon account and buy the book.
The Kindle automatically logs out of your account when it goes to sleep (that would be one of the few software innovations required here). You don’t need to be logged into the account to read the book, of course, because you aren’t reading your copy, you are reading the device’s.
Ideally, there would be some way to transfer your location in the book from the device to your account.
I think this could be a really good discovery method…something very important to publishers, and for which they are willing to pay.
It wouldn’t have to just be airlines: it could be hotels, even coffee shops. Perhaps public transit, for that matter. A forty-five minute train ride could be enough to hook you on a book.
Now, would some people read a whole book and not pay for it this way? Sure.
Would some people start a book and decide they don’t like it and not buy it? Yes, that’s possible, but you have seven days from purchase to return a Kindle book anyway*, so that doesn’t add a lot of risk, in my opinion.
I think this might work very well.
A similar idea for “Borrow to Buy” is expressed in this
It makes an interesting argument for public libraries becoming e-bookstores, and talks about what is already happening in that area.
Essentially, you might go to a library (or a library’s website), and want to borrow a book…but there is a long waiting list. You have the option to immediately get the book if you buy it.
That’s not exactly Borrow to Buy, but you could also do it where you have the option to buy the book when your loan is expiring.
One argument for it: if you buy the book, it could retain annotations you’ve made it: when you return it, it wouldn’t.
It think this idea of “Borrow to Buy” could really appeal to the tradpubs (traditional publishers). If you are getting on a plane, and it doesn’t cost you anything to do, I think you are much more likely to select a well-known book than to start with something of which you’ve never heard. Indies (independent publishers) can compete strongly on price: there would be no price competition here when you started to read. You would want something relatively safe (likely to be good, with decent proof-reading), because you don’t want to take a lot of time picking something.
Many people would want to start reading the book they heard about on the news, or for which they saw a full-page ad somewhere.
Why don’t I think magazines/newspapers would work as well?
I think you are less likely to be hooked part way through something in a magazine and have that emotional drive to finish it. You might read a great article and want to subscribe, but I think the pass-through rate on the sales would be a lot lower on that.
An obvious question: why wouldn’t you just read on your own Kindle?
There is that issue of lost/broken/not charged, or of wanting to try a different model…but this would also appeal because the books on it would be free (for the duration of your encounter). Maybe you normally wouldn’t pay $9.99 for a book, but you start reading it on the plane and get hooked.
What do you think? Am I missing any major barriers to this? Would this be something that would help tradpubs maintain market share? It seems to me that it benefits the tradpubs and the airline/hotel/restaurant/public transit agency significantly. I think it would help hardware manufacturers: I don’t think very many people would say, “I don’t have to buy my own Kindle because I can read one at Starbucks”…and the ones who do probably wouldn’t have bought one anyway. Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.