Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Next, I start my own library

As I've said before, I have a serious book problem. I haven't counted, but I would estimate that I've got around 600 books in my home -- not counting G's books, which also number in the hundreds -- and another 300 or 400 in storage. (P was forever telling me to get rid of some, which sounds harsh until you consider that at one point, we actually moved because I didn't have room for any more bookshelves.)

I've cut back on my buying habit in the last couple of years, but I still buy 5 or 6 new books a month for myself, plus another 5-10 for G. Not only do they take up a lot of room, they're expensive, and while I read a lot of them more than once, others just sit and languish. So, this week I decided to bite the bullet and try paperbackswap.com.

This is how the site works: You start out by posting 10 books that you want to offer, in exchange for which you receive two "free" credits toward books posted by other members. When someone requests one of your books, you print out a mailing wrapper (you can pay for preprinted postage or use stamps), wrap and tape the book according to the instructions, and send it out. As soon as you report that the book has been sent, you get another credit added to your account.

Here's what I've discovered so far:

1. The startup costs are more than I expected. I've invested $15 in postage (unlike eBay, where the recipient pays postage, here it's the sender's responsibility), and I had to buy a mailing envelope to contain one hardback book that was too large to wrap. Also, they recommend that you cover books in plastic wrap before wrapping them in paper, and I had to get a roll of that also, as we don't use plastic wrap at home.

2. Things move FAST on this site. I posted my first 10 books on Sunday evening, and I got two requests to ship within the first hour, another one later that night, and a fourth on Monday. (ETA: And a fifth just now. I can't keep up!) Again, if you're used to eBay, where you post an item and it can sit there for days before anyone buys/bids on it, this can come as a shock. Once you accept the request, you have two days to send the book out and another couple of days after that to report that you sent it, otherwise you don't get your credit.

3. Members can specify that they won't accept books from homes where people smoke or where there are pets. Of course, right away I accidentally sent one to someone who said "no pets." Oops. I hope since it's been jammed in between other books on a high shelf, it isn't covered with dander. If not, there isn't much I can do about it now.

That's all for now. I've put in a couple of my own requests, so we'll see how I like it after I start receiving books rather than just doing all the work of sending them out.


Valerie ( Who can't remember her blogger Id said...

I as well am a hopeless book addict. I probably have near to your numbers if not more.. and Alex has closely approaching that. Jason is forever telling me to get rid of books, but I just can't help myself. I want them. I try not to buy new ones for me unless there is a good excuse. I also use paperback swap. Once you get going and you earn credits from sending etc you will find that it is worth it. You don't actually need mailing envelopes. The preferred method for Paperback swap books is actually just wrapping two sheets of paper around the book. And believe it or not I have not had a damaged book yet that way and I have recieved well over 100 books from PBS people. I love that I can use it to fill in gaps in my library of books.

~Sandy~ said...

LOL - I just bought a new bookcase for Gabe's room today! He has hundreds of books, I need to thin them out desperately. Me, I just borrow books from the library for myself- I'm lucky that it's only a block away, we are there all the time.

Elsi said...

If you want to weed your book collection without the expense of mailing them away, try BookCrossing (http://www.bookcrossing.com )

PBS is designed around the concept that you want to get new books and you're willing to give up some that you already have to get the new ones. With that approach, the cost works out fairly for the giver and the getter. But, if you're only giving away your books, you bear the cost of mailing.

BookCrossing, on the other hand, is designed around the principle of "Read, Register, and Release". Registration assigns a unique serial number to your copy of the book and you can track the book via the web site to see who has gotten it. Ideally, after that person gets your book, he or she passes it along to someone else and so forth.

I often use BookCrossing to cull my collection of books. Makes me feel much better than taking them down to the local 1/2 price book store where they'll give me a token 25 cents apiece for them.

I also donate books to library book sales. My weakness here, though, is that I drop by the book sale during our towns fall festival and bring home even more books! (Can you tell that I'm a book-aholic?)