Back in 2007, our family packed up and moved cross country from California to North Carolina. We lived in an incredibly charming, but incredibly small house, barely stretching over 1,000 square feet. It included extensive built in dressers and storage, so we didn’t even have all that much furniture to move, and I’m not a pack-rat. You can imagine my shock when the moving bill came in at nearly $10,000. If you’ve ever moved with a professional moving company, you know that these costs are calculated by weight, not volume. That’s when I learned the cost, literally, of my love affair with books. If you share this obsession, I’ve got a treat for you!
Years ago, a close friend sent a book my way through an online book website called Paperbackswap.com. She encouraged me to sign up, but for some reason, I just never got around to it. Then one day I stumbled across it again, signed up, and wondered what on earth had taken me so long!
Despite millions of members, Paperbackswap still seems to be one of the best kept secrets online. Here’s how it works:
Paperbackswap.com is an online, book exchange. It is completely free, easy as pie, and more than a little genius! I realized that I just had too many books I wasn’t ever going to read again.
Paperbackswap is more than just paperbacks, too. Their inventory includes every conceivable book you can imagine, many hard to find or out of print, soft covers, hard covers, and audio books as well. After signing up, you create a bookshelf of books that you have and are ready to say good bye to. They have made this process ridiculously easy. You simply type in the ISBN number located on your book (often near the barcode, or inside with the publishing information). Paperbackswap’s website brings up your book, including a photograph to post, and you click “post”. It’s that simple.
Once you’ve signed up and posted your first 10 books, you will be given 2 free points to get started. Then for the fun part…browsing the nearly 5 million books other members have posted for those you’d love to read.
I think what I love most about Paperbackswap is that it is all based on a points system. There is no monetary value ascribed to each book. This means you can post a $2 paperback and order that $30 hardback coffee table book you’ve always wanted. It’s all based on a wonderful system of recycling. Each book, no matter it’s market value, is worth 1 point in the Paperbackswap system, audio books are worth 2 points. The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is perfectly demonstrated here.
When another member spots a book on your bookshelf that they would like, you receive an email letting you know you have a book request, including the other members mailing address. All books are sent Media Mail (formerly “book rate”) through the US Post Office, a wonderfully inexpensive and efficient service reserved only for books. The average cost I have paid to send any book anywhere has been about $2.50.
Once the requesting member receives your book, they sign in and mark it received, and Paperbackswap awards you a point. They even allow you to print out a wrapper with the other member’s mailing address (you just wrap it around the book and mail). They even let you know, based on collected information from other members, approximately how much it will cost to mail a particular book.
Essentially for an average cost of $2.50, I have a point I can use to order a book from another member, that may have cost me $15 had I made a trip to the book store. Any book you request is mailed to you for free. There are no hidden fees whatsoever.
There are a lot more bells and whistles, including wish lists, where you can be notified when a book you want becomes available, friends lists, and requestor’s conditions (such as specifying that books come from a non-smoking environment), but I’ve given you the basics to get started. There are a few basic rules as to a book’s condition that we all agree to, and all of the books I’ve ever received have been in excellent condition.
I can’t begin to tell you how invaluable and fun this has been for me, especially with the limited availability of books I’m interested in through my local library. Not only is this a way to order new books for yourself…it is a brilliant way to clear out your shelves before a big move, while gaining points to be used in the future.
Anticipating a new job and possible relocation, I recently sat down with my husband and kids to go through all of the children’s books we have collected over the years, to make sure our next move is a little lighter, and therefore a little less expensive! We saved all of the most special and sentimental books of course and then listed the remainder on Paperbackswap. So far, we’ve acquired 17 points. My problem now is that I am tempted to order as many books as I am unloading!
I love this system. It’s extraordinarily well run, cost effective, simple to navigate, efficient, smart, and environmentally friendly. Give it a try…I promise you’ll love it!