Amazon in Talks ‘to Launch Digital Book Rental Service’

Amazon is reportedly working on a new Netflix-like service for eBooks that would let customers rent eBooks for a subscription fee.

Amazon.com Inc. is talking with book publishers to launch a rental subscription service for digital books, U.S. media reported on Monday. Photo: Kevin Spencer/Flickr

Amazon.com Inc. is talking with book publishers about launching a Netflix Inc.-like service for digital books, in which customers would pay an annual fee to access a library of content, writes The Wall Street Journal.

It’s unclear how much traction the proposal has, the people said. Several publishing executives said they aren’t enthusiastic about the idea because they believe it could.

The Seattle-based company is in talks with book publishers about launching a digital book rental service in a similar vein to the popular movie offering Netflix, according to reports.

The service, which is expected to only be available in the US at first, would see customers pay an annual fee for access to a library of ebooks, writes The Wall Street Journal.

Publishers are understood to be having mixed reactions to the concept, which has proved to be a successful model for digital movie rentals, as proven by the popular US film service, Netflix.

The online retailing giant is believed to have offered book publishers a large fee for joining the service. However, the negotiations are said to still be in their early stages.

Amazon.com Inc., which is expected to imminently launch a tablet device to rival Apple’s iPad, has also said that the digital ebook library would feature older titles and be accessible to those who pay for $79 a year for Amazon Prime, the service which allows people unlimited two-day shipping and films and TV shows on demand.

One US publishing executive told The Wall Street Journal: “What it [the digital book rental service] would do is downgrade the value of the book business.”

“The idea isn’t entirely new with services like ‘the library’, www.booksfree.com and www.bookswim.com existing for some time but both are currently primarily for offline paperbacks and hardbacks,” writes Zee, Editor-in-Chief of popular social media blog ‘The Next Web.’

He continues: “There’s also www.24symbols.com which recently launched a near identical offering, but currently only features titles that are public domain rather than premium bestsellers.”

“With Amazon’s Kindle platform and intimate relationships with every premium publisher on the planet, this is a unique new space only the likes of Amazon and Apple are likely to be able to cater to,” he added.

Amazon was unavailable for comment at the time of writing. In February, the company launched its long-awaited subscription video-streaming service as part of Amazon Prime, setting itself up to be a serious rival to Netflix. [The Wall Street Journal via The Next Web]

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