Friday, October 22, 2010

Taming Bookshelf Bulge

The last few months, I've been exploring the world of Internet book-swapping sites, specifically Bookmooch and Paperback Swap. To my surprise, I find I've given away 106 books since April. That means that I can request 106 books and some nice person will wrap each one up and stick it in the mail addressed to me. Pretty cool, eh?

Moving to the new house forced me to sort through my books, and identify the "keepers." Sadly, some old friends were in such poor condition they were of no use to anyone, and I reluctantly sent them to the landfill. (Sorry, Mr. Dickens. See you on Project Gutenberg!)

That left another large pile that I was not going to read again. They were unlikely to interest the local libraries or to sell on-line, but an enthusiastic friend had described Paperback Swap, so I thought somebody somewhere might be interested in a few of them.

I'd also heard of Bookmooch, and decided to try them both. I picked out the ten books I thought most desirable and listed them on both websites.

This was a mistake. I had a cookbook instantly scarfed up both places, so I had to refuse someone's request the very first thing. I've since discovered that Paperback Swap has an automatic hold feature, allowing people to reserve books they want in advance, while Bookmooch sends out emails to members if your book is on their "wish list." I have the best luck listing books on one swap site one day, the other the next. It's also not a good idea to list a lot of books at one time, unless you're feeling flush with cash. The weekend I listed 20 books at one time, I had a shocking total to pay at the post office.

I've found it worthwhile to participate in both sites. It's easier for me to find books I want instantly on Paperback Swap , while it's much easier for me to give books away on Bookmooch . Paperback Swap is a for-profit enterprise, with a slick e-commerce interface, automatic holds, and options to buy books through their site. They also have busy forums and a variety of ways for genre enthusiasts to interact.

Bookmooch is less slick, and has no commercial aspirations or detailed rules about the sorts of things you can list as a "book." I've given away vintage knitting brochures and magazines on Bookmooch--in fact, people started requesting them before I'd finished listing them. Bookmooch also lets you describe the book's condition in as much detail as you wish, so you can crow about a book's excellent condition or warn prospective moochers about its flaws. Paperback Swap has very specific rules about types and conditions of items that can be traded, but there's no simple way to add condition notes to your listing.

It seems I am no good at predicting what books people will request from me on either site. Most of the books I've given away are nonfiction--knitting, crochet, food, nature guides....but a bird book and a nutrition book have languished on my "bookshelf" for months with no takers. Some genre paperbacks aren't moving, while some obscure novels were requested right away.

The whole sorting process also left me with a pile of books I bought long ago but haven't read yet. These forgotten finds, along with some books I've mooched from the swapping sites, have given me a nice stack of "new" reads for the winter. If I don't like a book, or if I don't anticipate rereading it, I can offer it on line, and slow the inevitable bulging bookshelf syndrome.

Be a book trader at


Terry said...

Welcome back! It's great to 'see' you again. :)

Rebecca Clayton said...

Thanks, Terry!