Washington Smart CEO

July 2011 issue - page 12

Avid Readers Sign On For The "Netflix of Books"

Move over Kindle, Barns & Noble and the public library. Booksfree may very well be cutting into your customer base.

Since 2000, Booksfree, a Vienna-based operation that has been dubbed the "books version of Netflix" has been shipping paperback books to readers all over the country. It's an ideal solution for those who need to feel and hold a "traditional" book yet do not want to clutter up their bookshelves or venture outside in ad weather. Booksfree's solution is simple and convenient: Once a reader finishes a book and returns it. Booksfree ships the next book in the queue. The service is also a relief for those who have a guilty conscience about the environmental impact of mountains of paper books.

While there is competition from traditional booksellers, public libraries and e-readers, Booksfree, a privately held enterprise, is an affordable and attractive alternative. The basic membership is $10.99 per month and allows members to rent two books at a time. The average book rental is $2.89 per book - significantly less than the cost of an e-book. The company also offers alternative rental plans, as well as a selection of audio books.

Booksfree has an inventory of more than 250,000 titles and more than 13,000 subscribers. Typical customers are women between the ages of 35 and 55 - the company has been noted in women-friendly publications, such as Woman's Day, O magazine, and First for Woman. And for different niche demographic, Booksfree touts its access to hard-to-find and out-of-print books.