According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon may launch a rental service for digital books. The company would charge users an annual fee to access Amazon's library of digital content, similar to Netflix's business model. The rumored plan is also similar to the digital book lending that many library systems utilize, though there is no charge for those services.
The rumor currently pegs the book rental service as a part of Amazon's Prime service, which charges subscribers a $79 annual fee for free two-day shipping, reduced overnight delivery fees, and unlimited instant streaming of movies and TV shows. If the book rental service comes to fruition, it would likely have limits on how many books could be checked out in a month.
While Amazon is still floating the idea around, the initial response from publishers has been less than enthusiastic. Many publishers feel that such a service would lessen the sales value of their books and get them in hot water with other book retailers. However, the Journal estimates that Amazon would pay publishers handsomely to get them on board, which would surely assuage their fears.
In the meantime, Kindle owners can still checkout digital book editions—for free—from over 11,000 U.S. libraries via the Kindle Library Lending service.