A Website I Love: PaperBackSwap

RF_paperbackswapI’m participating in the 20-day Blogging Challenge from Jennifer Brower over at Where Books and Technology Meet. She has posted 20 days of blogging challenges for librarians. I’m modifying and responding to one prompt each week. Most librarian bloggers are wrapping up this challenge, but I’m just getting started!

Challenge: What is a website that you cannot live without? Tell about your favorite features and how you use it in your job.

There are a few websites that I use daily, and you probably have yours as well: Email, Twitter, news sources, library catalog, Pinterest, etc.

The one I use several times a week? PaperBackSwap.com. I cannot gush enough about PaperBackSwap.

PaperBackSwap is a website where you post books you have read (or pretended to read) to an online market. The books are added to a FIFO queue (First In, First Out–I couldn’t help showing off my lingo). When someone else needs a book, they submit a request and they get the next book in the lineup. If there are three copies of Where the Red Fern Grows available and you need a copy, the person who is next in line will send it to you.

For free.

Yup. Free!

The system operates on a credit structure. If you mail someone a book, you earn a credit. When you need a book, you use a credit. The only money involved is for two things: the postage to mail someone else a book, and for feature upgrades (one of which I recommend for teachers).

To start in the system, you are given free credits so that you’ll be able to immediately participate in the system. You can go online and order a book. It will be mailed to you and you’ll be debited a credit. To earn more credits, you can re-post the same book after reading it, or post any other books you own.

When I started at PaperBackSwap I had a shelf of writing books that I bought after I dove into Katie Wood Ray’s What You Know by Heart and bought books about writing. I read a few of them, gleaned a few ideas, and never went back to them. When I posted the dozen books at PaperBackSwap I was caught off guard because there were people who were on waiting lists for these books! I immediately mailed them and racked up a nice foundation of credits.

I get books in the mail all the time. Books like new releases are very popular and there are waiting lists for them. If the books are paperback the waiting list can be 100-300 people long. Generally, a list about 150 people long will clear in 1-3 months for a popular fluffy beach read. A list for hardcovers can take longer. And a list for popular books that people want to own for their very own takes forever. I go on once a month or so and look at my favorite authors and get myself on the waiting list for books that are coming out 6 months from now. Then I forget about them and get nice surprises in the mail. I can read those books and turn them right around to the next person for only the cost of Media Mail postage rate.

And even though I receive books all the time, I’ve still been able to rack up credits because I have posted more books than I’ve received. I buy new paperbacks occasionally because someone has to buy them to start the chain off, so I do my part and buy a full priced book every once in awhile. And I often look at my shelves and think “ah, I don’t need that one anymore.” I buy far fewer e-books than I used to because of PaperBackSwap.

When you have some credits stocked up is when I recommend paying for upgrade features. There’s a feature that seems tailored to teachers because it’s called the Golden Key and it allows you to request multiple copies of the same book at the same time (which is otherwise not allowed). This is great for student book clubs! When the movie based on The Borrowers came out, I was able to get 25 copies of the book sent to me. Once my kids read it in the library, then I reposted the books (one at a time) and was able to mail them back out, recouping my credits. I’ve done the same thing several times for book clubs of 4-8 kids. Each time I am usually able to get my credits back by re-posting the books.

When I see older books mentioned in posts or articles that are good for certain instructional topics I always check PaperBackSwap. Sometimes there’s a waiting list and sometimes there is a book available, even if the book is out of print.

Have I convinced you yet?

If you’re ready to try it, just click the banner! There is a referral credit for me if I refer you, but that’s not so important to me. To help you get started I’ll re-gift my referral credits right back to your account! If you have any questions, please drop them into the comments and I’ll be happy to answer whatever I can!

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.

January 22, 2014
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