YouTube has quietly begun offering a variety of movies and TV episodes available for rental at youtube.com/store. After experimenting with $5 rentals of Sundance Film Festival movies this January, the site is now offering 48 hour rentals mostly between 99 cents and $3.99. Rental fees are paid through Google Check-out.

Independent, Bollywood, Manga and documentary films dominate the charts so far. We expect a formal announcement from YouTube about the store soon, we were tipped off to its opening this morning by reader Ron Ilan, creator of children's video aggregator site creator Totol.

Gigaom's video industry blog NewTeeVee reported that YouTube expanded its rental program in February beyond the Sundance films, but didn't make a whole lot of money on early experiments with paid viewing. Video rentals have been available in iTunes for two years now. Microsoft has also seen some success in renting videos for more than 3 years through its XBox Video Marketplace.

Are you interested in renting videos from YouTube? I am. Every time I open up one of those Netflix envelopes and stick a disk into my computer, I wonder "how much longer are we going to be using these physical media to transport video?" The end is clearly in sight for that method. YouTube is a great lightweight video community. If existing channel producers leverage the rental store on occasion, it could be a nice win for everyone. Bring on the rentals!