A NetFlix for Books

You Are What You Queue is the story of Netflix and the addiction with setting up queues of which movies to watch. Writes NYTImes:

“We call it the Queue obsession, and about a third of our customers have it,” said Reed Hastings, chief executive of Netflix. “They visit their lists three or more times a week and look at it the way they look at their stocks. ‘What’s on the list?’ `What should I move around?’ Honestly, I’ve heard of people who have more than 400 films in their Queues.”

My current list of 45 movies may pale by comparison, yet I know I’m a victim of the addiction. For instance, I just checked my Queue to get the latest count for this article. As I did that, I remembered seeing a commercial featuring Jackie Chan earlier in the day. That reminded me of my favorite Chan film, “The Legend of Drunken Master,” which I hadn’t seen in a few years. So in the space of one paragraph, my Queue count has risen to 46.

That’s how Netflix gets you. I can’t recall any previous service that allowed movie lovers to quantify their fixation with such detail.

Once you start free-associating about films, the service’s vast collection makes the process nearly impossible to stop. Nearly everything starts reminding you of movies you always wanted to see but never got around to, or that you saw once and never forgot, or that you are curious about although you were too embarrassed to catch them in the cineplex.

I was wondering why a similar kind of “rental” service cannot be done for books in some of the world’s developing countries. Yes, the neighbourhood libraries are there, but many have shut down or become smaller, since revenues have dried up and real estate has become much more expensive. Running a centralised service where 2-3 books can be sent each time to readers could be a workable idea.

More than watching movies and TV, the next generation has to read. And if we can take away the cost of ownership of books and make it easier and cheaper, perhaps they will.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.