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Book rental is not a new concept. Libraries have been lending (renting) books to the public for thousands of years. Generally in the US, public libraries are non-profit organizations, offering book lending services free to their patrons and are generally funded through taxes and donations. Private libraries usually require a subscription or membership to the library (paid or unpaid) such as university libraries.

As of late, for-profit book rental services have been popping up, lending physical books, audiobook CDs, and audiobook MP3 CDs through an online (website) interface. Most companies either send books to consumers on an à la carte basis or through a monthly subscription. Following the popular Netflix model, many book companies have applied Netflix's unlimited rentals, free shipping, and no late fees structure to their book distribution model, effectively creating a book rental service. Books are generally mailed to the customers and are mailed back when finished.

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