I don’t get carried away by web-based businesses very often. Sure, I love a few online stores, several online communities, and at time even email — but PaperBackSwap has me cleaning out my cluttered bookshelves and finding books I’ve wanted for years for no more than the cost of media-rate postage to mail my books to good homes.
It all began when a few guys were talking one night about all the paperback books they’d purchased over the years when traveling on business. Each of them had a stack of books they’d read no longer doing them any good. They decided that night to set up a website that allows all of us to swap books with one another, paperbacks, hardbacks, spirals and more.
You begin by listing 10 books — made super simple through their interface. All you do is enter in the ISBN# and the system does the rest. For those 10 books, you get 2 free book credits to get you started swapping from other people.
I began by getting a book for my son I wouldn’t purchase from Amazon.com because I knew he’d grow out of it within the year. Free seemed like the perfect price. No strings attached. No gimmicks. No spam mail.
Then when another member selects one of my listed books, I mail it to him or her. I pay for the postage at the First Class rate if it’s a light book or Media Mail rate (about 5 stamps) if it’s an average size book weighing between 6-16 ounces. PaperBackSwap even provides an addressed wrapper so you don’t need a separate envelope or even a trip to the post office. Then I get a book credit I can use to select a book that I want from another member. For every book I mail out, I can get a book in return. There is even a way to list books I want that aren’t yet in the system. When someone new joins or adds in the book, I get a note letting me know it’s available.
Annual club membership is free. It really is as wonderful as it sounds. And if you do sign up, please list my email [marcia at marciaconner.com] in the referral section so I can see you’re in. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy![Photo by Hugovk of the Helsinki Airport Book Swap]
Updated December 15, 2014: Since writing this post in 2006, I’ve swapped almost a thousand books. Amazing. The great people behind PaperBackSwap also have started sister sites for swapping CDs called SwapaCD and for DVDs called SwapaDVD. While not nearly as active as the book swap, I’ve had great success with these sites too and you can move your credits between the three sites. I’ve also joined a competing swap site, Bookmooch, because I can swap books from people outside the U.S. I use it far less often, but I appreciate having options. If you’re interested in joining, here’s the free registration to Bookmooch. There are a few other bookswap sites, several others which I’ve tried, but I haven’t stuck with them. I’m thrilled with these and I use them often. These days, I’m more interested in getting rid of books and getting them into the hands of people who really want them, but when I go there and find a book I’m looking for just waiting to be sent my way, it’s still a thrill.