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Amazon looks to Netflix-like e-book rental program

Amazon has approached publishers about launching an e-book rental program, The Wall Street Journal reports. The service would follow a model similar to that of Netflix, requiring subscribers to pay an annual fee for access to a cache of digital books.

From The WSJ:

Amazon has told publishers it is considering creating a digital-book library featuring older titles, people familiar with the talks said. The content would be available to customers of Amazon Prime [now available in the U.S. only], who currently pay the retailer $79 a year for unlimited two-day shipping and for access to a digital library of movies and TV shows.

Amazon would offer book publishers a substantial fee for participating in the program, people familiar with the proposal said. Some of these people said that Amazon would limit the amount of books that Amazon Prime customers could read for free every month.

At this point, details of the new program are sketchy at best. WSJ is uncertain as to whether any publishers have signed on, though one industry source quoted in the article suggests the service could “downgrade the value of the book business,” and Amazon has yet to comment on the story, or on whether Canadian or other international publishers have been consulted.