The sharing economy has really changed the way that we get things done. Apps like Uber have made it so that you can have other people drive you places, instead of having to own your own car. AirBnB makes it so you can use someone else’s house, rather than owning your own. People have gotten used to the idea of letting others use their things.
A shared library could be similar. Traditionally libraries have been great because they allow you to read books without having to buy the book. However, traditionally libraries can have limited stock. By creating a distributed library app, you could borrow books from anyone anywhere by paying a small shipping fee (or picking up the book in person if it’s close by). This would allow for a nearly infinite selection of books as more members sign up. Within the app, “patrons” would be able to list all of the books they have that others can borrow.
Any time someone borrowed a book through the app, they would transfer a borrow credit to the person they’re borrowing from. Each borrow credit would be good for borrowing a single book. Borrow credits could be purchased for something close to the average price of shipping a book, or could be cashed out to a bank account. These credits would encourage people to lend out the most popular books, and could potentially be a source of revenue for others.
Potentially some sort of partnership deal could be created with the Postal Service to ship books for distributed library members at a lower rate than normal. This way you could save some money for everyone involved.
I think this model would work best as a nonprofit. No money would be made by the company, but rather it would function similar to a normal library where any money received would go towards bringing down the cost of borrowing books for members and improving the service.
The main reason I think this is necessary is because I was looking to check out a book the other day, and none of the libraries in Provo or Salt Lake have it. I’m sure there is someone somewhere who owns the book I want though, and I would be more than willing to pay to have it shipped to me. There are already huge communities around reading like GoodReads and so I’m sure you could find plenty of users who would love to join a distributed library like this.