By now most everyone is acquainted with Netflix, that brilliant little company which spent years delivering movies and television series to our door (all right, to our mailboxes or post office boxes) in little red and white envelopes. Now they’re delivering the same via Internet video streaming. They’ve been quite successful. Well, Booksfree.com presents itself as the Netflix of books. Instead of having movies delivered to you in the mail books are delivered.
When you sign up for an account you’ll specify how many books per month you wish to receive and which kind, as in paperbacks or audiobooks. The trial I underwent was four paperbacks per month (coincidentally, that’s my Netflix plan, too). It was simple enough to get started. You sign in, peruse their catalog and find books you want to read and click the “add to queue” button. (One note here regarding queue setup. It doesn’t work just like Netflix. There, you have one big list of movies and they just go down the list and send you the next title. On Booksfree, your first four books need to be put in your “Order” and the rest go into “Queue”). There’s a rating system users can participate in which helps the company present you with recommendations, and there’s a Top 100 list. It’s very familiar to Netflix users, so it will be simple for first-timers to understand.
So there’s the technical part of it, which is simple enough. Here’s the questions that came up for me: 1) How will a program like this fare in the emerging world of the e-book? 2) Do I want books delivered to me or do I want to go to the library?
I’ll start with the first question. My answer to it is: I know not. I can only say this: I would rather have a book wirelessly delivered to me via the Kindle app on my Android phone than wait for the bulky package in the mail which may or may not contain the four books I really wanted to read and then have to keep track of the return mailer and make sure I don’t lose the book. A personal irritation of this service is not getting the books in your queue in the order you want them. I’m trying not to be too picky. Some of it is not the fault of the company. They have limited numbers of books, and some are rare, so at times I can understand that you won’t get the books in order. However, this happened to me on my very first shipment. And, the same thing happened to me regularly the last time I tried one of these services two or three years ago. Wirelessly, I can get the book I want when I want it. Yes, the ugly instant gratification plague has infected me in this matter.
Now for the second question, do I want the books delivered or do I want to make the trip to the library? This is harder to answer. For myself, I think I’m on the “go to the library” side. One reason is that it took seven days for the shipment of my first two books to reach me. My local library is about six minutes away. However, I have to say that the library here has a… well, a stupid selection most times. I have had to do inter-library loans quite often. But they haven’t taken seven days to arrive.
The other factor is cost, of course. If I figured everything correctly, it costs me forty cents in gas to go to library. If I go every day, that’s 12 bucks per month. The basic plan at Booksfree.com, one-two books per month, is 11 bucks. But, I know I can read about three per month and I can get that in one trip, so I’m better off driving to my library. My wife will read five or six, my daughter three or four. Now I’m up to about 12 to 14 books per month, which costs $50 at Booksfree. Sorry, I’ll have to stick with 12 dollars per month.
The book delivery service might not be a bad option for an occasional reader, someone who doesn’t necessarily want the book right away, someone with a bit of patience. There’s a pretty good selection of books to choose from, you can keep the books as long as you need to finish them and then you can just drop them in the mail and forget about them. If you read more than four books a month, I think you’re better off with a Kindle and the library.