By Carolyn Kellogg
2:31 PM EST, December 16, 2013
The idea of a "Netflix for books" e-book service is too delicious to resist. Amazon has a version, its Kindle Lending Library. Oyster launched a high-profile e-book subscription service in October. That same month Scribd, which has been putting large documents on the Web since 2007, launched an e-book subscription service too. Who can make it work? What kind of model is best?
On Monday, a new company, Entitle, entered the fray. People who sign up with Entitle pay a monthly fee and get a few books a month -- two books for $14.99, three for $21.99, and four books for $27.99.
That price point is something publishers can be comfortable with. Entitle's partners include Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Workman Publishing, in addition to already e-savvy companies like Sourcebooks and Open Road Media.
That means the service is carrying the new book from Stephen King, "Doctor Sleep," Jodi Picoult's popular fiction, and books by Michael Crichton, Janet Evanovich and Dan Brown.
One thing that distinguishes Entitle from the other services is that the books its customers download aren't rentals -- they're purchases. Books that are downloaded during the month stay on e-readers' digital shelves.
That means it's less like Netflix than like Columbia Record House meets Book-of-the-Month Club, but Netflix is a more appealing brand comparison.
Entitle, like its cousin Oyster, uses an internal recommendation engine to present readers with the books it thinks they will want to see. Good recommendations remain a major challenge in the online bookselling business; even Amazon, which has accrued more than a decade's worth of data, can't quite compare to a knowledgeable bookseller in a retail store.
Along with its public launch, Entitle announced the close of $5.3 million in Series A funding.
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