Have you ever wished you could rent eleven books at a time through the mail? Well, now you can … and we’re still trying to figure out why you would.
The concept of BookSwim is exactly like that of Netflix in that you pick a plan for the number of books you would like to check out at any given time. You can choose 1 book, 3 books, 5 books, 7 books and 11 books, and all of them offer free shipping both directions except for the one book at a time plan. If you find you really enjoyed a book, and would like to keep it, you do have the option of purchasing the book without having to send it back.
While we understand the lure of Netflix, and have a subscription here at the office that we love, your average movie is two hours in length, you can quickly turn over your rentals to get the most out of your subscription. Unless you are a speed reader, getting the maximum return on investment out of your subscription would be difficult at best. There are advantages in instances where you are in situations like being a student and you need a certain book (BookSwim also offers textbook rentals via a partnership with Chegg.com), you live in a small town with no library, you are shut in for some reason and so on. Even at this though, the monthly memberships range from $9.95 a month to $59.95 a month, so it still seems hard to believe that very many people will ever be able to use this service enough to get their monies worth out of it.
With the explosion of e-readers that allow for instantaneous book delivery, and even some allowing for you to loan books to friends, as well as huge collections of free books you can read, this service is just a bit lost on us. We see a lot of value in the textbook rental service for college students, but as we said, that is done with a partnership with Chegg.com, so you can just go through them directly.
If you love BookSwim, and find it useful, more power to you, but we have to say we don’t picture this site having an extremely long life.
What is a Chumby? Who is it meant for? Is it worth your money? These are all questions we hope to answer for you in this review.
What is a Chumby?
In essence, the Chumby is a mini-computer that is a wacky form of RSS reader. Once you set up the little device, you choose a selection of widgets (there are around a 1,000 to choose from, ranging from games to major news outlets), and then it just sits there streaming your information via Wi-Fi with no interaction from you.
As it streams through it’s various feeds, if you see something you want to read or interact with, you merely tap the screen to pause the cycle and read the story, look at pictures or play a game. If you want to jump to a particular widget to get something like the weather when you want, all you need do is click the button on the top (hidden inside in the soft casing), go to the dashboard, scroll to the one you want, and return to the main screen to read the information.
Who is the Chumby meant for?
This is probably the hardest thing to answer about the little device. We actually went back to the company to ask this very question after we received our unit. “Well it certainly started with the more tech savvy being the most likely customer,” said Megan Kellett of their PR firm. She went on to say, “in the beta before launch and right after launch when no one knew what it was, and didn’t understand the category. But it’s been very popular with average consumers as of late because since you personalize your “channel” it has content that appeals to everyone.”
Where it finally ‘clicked’ for us was when Ms. Kellett said, “The folks at Cchumby like to say it’s for anyone with a “rich internet life” meaning someone that spends a lot of time checking email, their favorite sites, weather, sports, etc, and can now switch it to a more passive experience. Instead of having to log on repeatedly or stop working and switch Web pages there is a constant stream of exactly the parts from the Internet that you want to see.” That was what we needed to hear! “passive” is the perfect way to explain the Chumby. It does all the work for you and takes away the need to switch browser windows or tabs, all of the information is brought to you with little to no work on your part.
Pros & Cons of the Chumby
Takes the work out of some of your web browsing.
The passive experience makes for a more pleasant browsing experience.
Did we mention its addictive?
Would like to see a battery operated option, but understand that Wi-Fi is a major power drain.
Wish you didn’t have to go to the Chumby website to make changes to your channels.
The instruction manual could be a bit more in-depth, but it doesn’t take long to figure things out as the interface is fairly intuitive.
Is the Chumby worth the money?
The Chumby runs $179.95 (comes in three different colors), and I actually find myself saying that, yes, it is worth the money. I have been running mine for a little over a week now, and I am hopelessly addicted to it. I actually find myself wishing I had a second one so I could keep one on my desk and another by my bed to use its alarm clock features and streaming music from Pandora (it has built in speakers for music).
This really is the perfect gift for that “hard to buy for” person in your life because it can stream so many different types of information to the person that there is something for everyone. You can stream pictures from Flickr, listen to music, play games, keep up on news or do just about anything else you can think of.
In short, we highly recommend it for yourself or as giving it as a gift.