Once upon a time, Netflix had a pre-paid-rentals mode of accounts. You'd pay for rentals in advance, in, say, a block of 50, they'd mail you the movies, you could return 'em whenever you wanted to get your next movie. It was great. You see, I'm an infrequent renter of movies, so their monthly-subscription-based plan didn't really make sense to me. I'd rent something every couple of months or so, and be paying a fortune for it. Granted, they've added cheaper monthly plans since then, as low as 4.99 a month, which approaches the point of being "worth it" for my infrequent rentals. But not quite, especially when there's something that's (arguably) even better...
Enter the Seattle Public Library (SPL), and in particular, their holds system. If you're an SPL member (which is free, you just have to live in Seattle or other certain parts of King County -- ok, granted, not everyone reading this will have that privilege), you can log in to the SPL web site, and you can then place holds on a fairly wide selection of DVDs. When they become available (which ranges from quickly to a good long while later, admittedly), you get an e-mail letting you know they're there, and you can wander in, pick 'em up, and do a self-checkout.
OK, it's true, this isn't quite as convenient as having them show up in the mail, but if you're as frequently downtown as I am, or near any of their other branches on a regular basis, then it's just a quick diversion from your regular routine. And it's Free! OK, yeah, there's also this funny thing called a due date, which netflix doesn't have... but you can usually (depending on how many other people are waiting) renew (on-line, with just a couple of easy clicks, 24/7), and if you're late a little, it's a much less harsh fee than what, say, blockbuster would charge.
Oh yeah, and you can also use it for books! And here's the best part: You can place a hold on hold (if you'll pardon my doubling up the word -- they actually call it "suspending" a hold), until you're ready to actually get the thing -- while still moving your position in line forward, in case there's a waiting list. So if, for example, you're in a book club, and you want to place a hold for the next book, but not get it until the day after this month's meeting, you can just choose that date as the target of a suspended hold, and they'll put you at the front of the line (or as close to it as you've gotten) on that day, and you get your book!
The Seattle Public Library on-line Try it. It's fun!
[This has been a random rambling by David Lindes. I just felt the urge.]