Have a hankering for a newly released novel or story collection but don’t want to pay the exorbitant price of a hardcover at Barnes and Noble? Do you hate having to be behind on the latest releases because they’re not available to borrow at the library yet? Had too much of your fill of canon and want some more contemporary? Then Bookswim might just be right for you.
For the past year or so, I’ve been trying out Bookswim, a Netflix-like service for books based in New York. Yes, it works just like Netflix. You have a rental pool, and there is a wide selection of books of all genres. The great thing about the service, which Netflix doesn’t do, is that if you don’t see a book available to rent, all you have to do is go on Amazon.com, find out the ISBN number(s) and send it to Bookswim to request it. I believe to keep the company afloat, Bookswim only rents out books that are ranked 10,000 or above on Amazon.com (or was it 1,000?). So there are limitations. But chances are you’ll want to read bestsellers anyway.
I haven’t always been so glowing in my reviews of the service however. When I first started it, the selection of literary titles was very poor and I got the feeling that the service catered mainly to genre readers (there was a seeming proliferation of romance and suspense/mystery novels). But over the past few months, seeming to coincide with a revamp of their Web site (which is now much more user-friendly), the titles I’d been looking for started becoming available. Maybe enough people requested them? Who knows. I’m just glad they’re now in my rental queue!
One drawback is the length of time it takes to get books. I was on the 3 books at a time plan where you return 2 books and keep 1 while you’re waiting for 2 new books to arrive. The problem is that it doesn’t take me a week and a half or so to read one book, only two days or so. So that plan was definitely not for me. I’m now on the 7-at-a-time, so it’s all about your idiosyncratic reading style/schedule/pace.
Price may be another problem. Bookswim’s prices and plans keep changing! All I know is that I locked in (I believe) on the 7-at-a-time plan for less than $30 (I noticed on the Web site that it’s now at around $35). Still, that monthly charge is still nothing in comparison to the savings you accumulate from not dishing out the dough to pay for those hardcovers. Oh, and Bookswim does have plans going as low as $9.99 (1 book a month).
There’s always room for improvement, but Bookswim has really made strides in providing better service. Personally, I wish the site had a ratings system, like the 5-stars system of Netflix. Not the biggest of deals, but it would be nice.
So what kind of books am I exactly talking about that you can find on Bookswim? In no alphabetical order (as I’m too lazy), some of the newer releases they have available on the site (I’m thinking 2008-2009) are:
- Colson Whitehead, Sag Harbor
- Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs
- Nick Hornby, Juliet, Naked
- Kazuo Ishiguro, Nocturnes: Five stories of music and nightfall
- Dave Eggers, The Wild Things
- Edmund White, City Boy
- E.L. Doctorow, Homer & Langley
- Richard Russo, That Old Cape Magic
- Roberto Bolano, The Skating Rink
- Philip Roth, The Humbling
- Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist
- Toni Morrison, A Mercy
- William Trevor, Love and Summer
- Yiyun Li, The Vagrants
- Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood
- The Best American Short Stories 2009
- Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (Booker Prize winner!)
- John Wray, Lowboy
- Arthur Philips, The Song is You
- Joseph O’Neill, Netherland
- Jonathan Lethem, Chronic City
- Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge
And some you can request:
- 2009/PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009
- Orhan Pamuk, Museum of Innocence
- John Updike, My Father’s Tears
- Aleksandar Hemon, Love and Obstacles
- Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Ms. Hempel’s Chronicles
So voracious book-lovers, put your Netflix account on hold and try out Bookswim. You know you want to.
Btw, need book suggestions? Need more cool recommendations than what President Obama’s reading? Then try out Bookmarks, one of my favorite mags catering to the book-lover.
Note: I am in no way affiliated with either Bookswim or Bookmarks. This post and any look or feel of advertisement are only the byproducts of my consumer and bibliophilic excitement, lol.