Is this the rise of the online circulating or subscription library?
Amazon/kindle is now offering to rent textbooks. If this takes off, how long before other book types will be offered?
Circulating and subscription libraries existed for very many years in Australia and elsewhere offering rental of popular (mainly fiction) works, until they were replaced by free public libraries.
Given the right price there is no reason why this business model could not come back. At the moment due to licensing restrictions imposed by some vendors public libraries that lend ebooks, are generally unable to lend an individual ebook out to more than one borrower at a time. Therefore just as with paper books a reader generally cannot get immediate access to very popular works from a library.
If they can get that immediate access for a reasonable fee from an ebook retailer, it would be a very attractive proposition for many readers. See this interesting article on circulation libraries in Melbourne 1930s-1960s, it does tend to show that commercial competition could be successful even where there were public libraries.
Will public libraries renegotiate or object to the licensing conditions they are currently offered, and demand multiple simultaneous use for all their ebooks, or will they let commercial vendors determine their future.
And if ebook publishers or retailers, in the future, get to lend more books than the libraries, will they then negotiate with government to take over library provision themselves. The digital revolution remains disruptive.