We recently joined the readers club which is an book rental service in Karachi. I've heard about the service for a while and we decided to take the plunge after it was featured in last weeks weekend issue of Dawn.
What I Love.
- Really fast delivery! I ordered a book on Monday and it was delivered to my door by Tuesday evening
- I was happy to learn that there isn't a reoccurring cost model with the program. You select which ever level you want to be at (minimum is 500PKR per month, unlimited rentals, one book out at a time). Once you rent a book you pay your monthly fee upon delivery and you have 30 days from that date to borrow unlimited number of books. I think this model is really well adapted the local environment; there would probably be a HUGE barrier to trial if you had to pay for the rental via a monthly billing program. As it is, you only pay for the first book you rent if and when you choose to rent it.
What they gotta work on.
- Surprisingly, the biggest weakness of the readers club is not service delivery, or even catalogue size, but the website itself. I found that the search feature doesn't work well (e.g. I searched for "in defense of food" which is the title of the book and found no results, but if I search for the author Michael Pollan I found the book).
- Thanks to Amazon, Google, and other repositories of information which not only help us find what we are looking for but to also help us find stuff when we don't know what we're looking for. The site had 'readers club picks', but I really missed features like similar book, reader reviews, most read books (by category), reading lists etc. I found myself basically looking for books I might want to read on Amazon and then searching on the readers club to see if they had them.
What they should do.
- I would be great of the readers club would be able to create a partnership with other clubs like Karachi Club or Gymkhana both of which is a decent library. The readers club could offer a white-labeled online book rental solutions to these clubs offering members the ability to rent books online and not have to both with pick / drop facilities.
- If they are getting the rental part right, then there are lots of other products they could venture into. What about rental of kids toys? Sounds funny - but it's happening. How about rental of school books? I'd also love to see rental of sports equipment like roller blades, skateboards, bikes etc.
Beware and Watch Out.
- Well the photocopied books available at Sunday bazaar might be a threat. Maybe e-books eventually in the future (at least 3 years for a country like Pakistan). Probably the biggest threat is that we don't have enough people reading (in any language) in Pakistan.