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BookSwim: book subscription service via Web

BookSwim lets you rent books off the internet like you would DVDs on Netflix.

Last week I took a look at TextBookFlix, an invite-only service that ships loaner text books at a sizable discount to cash-strapped college students. This week I've been browsing BookSwim, a similar service that's been around a little longer, and is open to everyone.

Look familiar? If you've used Netflix before, you've got the gist behind BookSwim.

BookSwim makes strong self-comparisons to Netflix, with its own books-by-mail turnaround service that lets you keep anywhere from 3 to 11 titles out at a time with five different subscription plans ranging from $20, all the way up to $36 per month. Like Netflix, BookSwim gives each user a queue of books, and will ship you more when you send them back. Instead of shipping books back one at a time, the service requires you to send several books back at a once depending on your plan.

To find new titles to put in your queue, there's a socialized browsing system that includes recommendations and reviews for each title that are written by users. There's also a top rentals listing, along with a "celebrity queue" run by a resident book head named Viral, who offers reading suggestions.

If you feel like keeping a title or purchasing it directly, BookSwim sells each of its titles through an affiliate store and a discounted purchase price you can pay through your account, similar to other rental services like Netflix, GamesnFlix, and GreenCine.

This service sounds absolutely fantastic for quick readers without a library or used bookstore nearby. Or if they're agoraphobic, yet addicted to new hardcovers and expensive manual-style books. Otherwise, you'd be better off picking up a handful of used books each month for about the same price.

If you dig expensive technology-related books like how-to guides and books from the 'Dummies' series you'll find them on BookSwim. CNET Networks