Thursday, April 29, 2010

Swapping Books

I'm a big fan of libraries and used bookstores, but I recently ventured into the world of Internet bookswapping and am fairly happy with the results.

I use Paperback Swap. I've heard there are other sites out there, including my beloved GoodReads, but this is the one I tried first and have found no reason to stray. The basic process is that you post what you want to get rid of, and when someone requests one of your posted books, you print off a label and mail it to them. The sender always pays postage, and because these are generally paperbacks, the postage is about $2.50 for an average sized book. Once the recipient indicates the book has been received, you get a credit to select a book from any of the ones posted by other swappers.

I started by gleaning my shelves of such gems as Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff--and It's All Small Stuff, The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, and about a dozen other books that I knew I would have no conceivable use for in the future.

I was a bit surprised by what was snapped up first: Lapsing into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print -- And How to Avoid Them, followed by Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire (a book I found unreadable but whose title sucked me in when I saw it on Amazon a few years ago), and The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.

I really hit pay dirt, though, when my 15-year old son decided to clean his shelves one Sunday afternoon and brought me stacks of barely read Anima and Manga books. These have been flying out the door, and our collective credits for more books have exceeded our reading pace and we are rich in future books.

The gotcha, of course, is that there aren't many recently published books out there. Those I either have to buy outright, queue up for at the library, or read when they are no longer all the rage.

My favorite acquisition from Paperback Swap?
1) A couple of Georgette Heyers (An Infamous Army and The Foundling).
2) Jude Morgan's Passion: A Novel of the Romantic Poets, of which I have extremely high hopes.
3) A couple of Ian Rankins.
4) The Talented Mr. Ripley, blogged upon by Dorothy at Of Books and Bicycles.
5) Canone Inverso, which I learned about from Maria at Fly High.
6) Little Women, so I can finally read this American classic this summer.

And what has my son gotten? I'm proud to say that he grabbed a copy of Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage, and then decided to save the rest of his credits for summer when school's out and all the days are playing holidays.

I've said it before, I simply love the Internet.


  1. Wow, Jane! It all sounds so easy! I'd like to look into signing up for this. I was wondering what conditions do the books have to be in and is there a way to know what condition the book you are requesting is in?

    The internet is truly amazing!

  2. When I read about your bookswapping here on your blog first time I tried to check the bookswapping at goodreads but it was US only... I usually find out that most of the book giveaways I'm interested in are open to US and Canada only. Living in Italy doesn't pay in this respect...
    Quite disappointed. Especially since I've got so many books I'd giveaway gladly to someone who would appreciate them... I'd love to swap them ...

  3. I occasionally give away books on bookcrossing or just donate them to charity shops, but I've never tried something like this system, nor have I tried buying secondhand on Amazon. I prefer charity shops to get the money. There are several charity shops near me, and I can often find books on my long-term 'to read' list in one of them if I wait patiently enough. I try to curb my book-acquiring instinct by only buying books from charity shops if they are on my list and resisting the others - recently I've found Passage to Juneau by Jonathan Raban and Ondaatje's The English Patient

  4. Meredith - I've only gotten one book that I considered dubious. A Heyer, and the sender did send an email saying that it was a library copy and asking if I still wanted it. I should have said no, but I didn't. Everything else has been in fine, slightly used to barely used condition.

    Maria - it's a bit surprising that something like this doesn't exist within Italy or Europe. I don't know what pan-European postage rates are like, but the cost to mail the books is really minimal, making it workable in the U.S.

    Tracy - I applaud your generosity. I don't know that our charity shops take books--they've certainly gotten hundred of pounds of clothes from our family over the years--but my library accepts all the books I can give them and they sell them at bi-annual sales.

  5. I joined PaperbackSwap and received my first book today! Twelfth Night! It is in practically new condition, I am so exicted!