Book rental services do exist, booksfree.com and bookswim.com are examples that send out physical books.
But, according to various sources (http://www.adadpress.com/2011/09/12/a-netflix-for-books-by-amazon/), Amazon is said to be readying an e-book rental service for US customers. Publishers have, not unexpectedly, shown “mixed reaction” to this idea. Oddly, some publishers believe this will “downgrade the value of the book business” which is an odd statement considering the existence of other book rental services (also known as libraries). From an article in the Telegraph:
"Amazon is believed to have offered book publishers a large fee for joining the service. However, the negotiations are said to still be in their early stages. The Seattle-based technology company, which is expected to imminently launch a tablet device to rival Apple’s iPad, has also said that the digital ebook library would feature older titles and be accessible to those who pay for $79 a year for Amazon Prime, the service which allows people unlimited two-day shipping and films and TV shows on demand."
This isn’t necessarily a horrible idea, especially for people who don’t like to keep books after they’ve read them, or perhaps for students who won’t need a book once the essay is written but since this will feature older titles, I would much rather just go to my local library (which, in my case, lends out digital eBooks). Perhaps this will be useful for those without a decent library system?