In Praise of PaperBackSwap

It’s been almost a year since I joined PaperBackSwap.  In that year I have culled my bookshelves, mailed out 134 books and made room for the 141 books I have received.   Some people say I’m obsessed with books.

They tell me that I’ve saved $634.50, based on a used book price of $4.50.  If you buy a used book on Amazon for $0.01 and add $3.99 shipping, you spend at least $4.00.

Here’s how it works:  initially you must post ten books which you are willing to make available to other members.  You receive two free book credits.  When someone wants your book, you receive an email, print out a “wrapper” and send the book to them.  You pay postage to send out books, but the books you request are sent to you free. 

What I’ve learned:

~  Since I don’t like wrapping books in 8 x 11, 20 pound copy paper, I’ve come up with the most frugal substitutes I can find.  I re-use every padded mailer that comes to my house.  I use the large blank newspaper bottoms that come with my son’s paper route.  I buy 10 x 13 manila envelopes (and strapping tape) at Costco ; most books fit in sideways and I fold the envelope down to size.

~ Regardless of the name of the club, hardback books are also swapped.  Audio books too. 

~  Books with the same ISBN (International Standard Book Number) can have different covers.  Don’t send off a grumpy message to the sender when the cover is not what you expected, ahem…

~  I use my Wish List whenever I read an intriguing book review, have a book recommended, read “best of” lists, read an author interview, etc.  The Wish List is limited to 200 books and my list is full.  When someone posts a book on my Wish List, and I am first in line to receive it (not a daily or even weekly occurrence) PBS sends me an email that the book I wanted is available and held for me for 48 hours.

~  The Reminder List is my spillover from the Wish List.  PBS takes no action on Reminder Lists. When my Wish List goes down, I move a book over from the Reminder List.

~  I don’t waste time browsing “books posted today”.  My tastes are not what anyone would call “popular”.  I use the search engine to look for authors and titles.  Over 2 million books are available. 

~  Patience is a necessary ingredient.  You are given five days to mail the book, using Media Mail, a slower class of mail.  If you need a book in two days, order from Amazon.  Although, I got Rick Steves’ Great Britain 2008 book a week before we left on our trip by asking the other member to send it First Class.

~  My small town post office is a mile away.  They all know me by name.  It works well for me to swing by there on the way to get groceries, see my grandson, etc.  There is a Printable Postage option with PBS, but I don’t want to pay the extra 43¢.

~  A small sample of books I’ve scored:

Four books by the historian Barbara Tuchman
Half a dozen books by Anthony Trollope
Kristin Lavransdatter, both translations
Five books by the social historian, Witold Rybcznski
All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (I love this cookbook)
From Dawn to Decadence, Jacques Barzun, hardcover!
Books by Zinsser, L’Engle, Luci Shaw, Dostoevsky, Stegner, P.D. James, Barbara Pym
Quite a few “Great Books” for my son’s education

~  Most books have been in pretty good condition.  Some are disappointingly ratty; others have obviously never been read (uncut pages).  The only requirement for books is that they are not ARCs (advance reading copy), written in or highlighted (flyleaf is okay).  You can make conditional requests (no smoking environment) and I have received and sent a few books with light highlighting with the other member’s permission.

~  I’m so far out of the mainstream that I’m bone dry.  “1/1” Books on my Wish List (I’m the only one in PBS requesting  this book, the first one to get this book when it enters the system…if that ever happens!):  [3 years later updated news in red]

Blind Harry’s Wallace, William Hamilton   received!
Christianity and Classical Culture, Charles Norris Cochrane
The Claverings, Anthony Trollope
The Creative Ordeal: The Story of Raytheon, Otto J. Scott  received
The Dancing Floor, John Buchan
Dove Descending: A Journey into T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, Thomas Howard (Elisabeth Elliot’s Catholic brother) received
Evelyn Underhill: Essential Writings
An Eye for An Eye, Anthony Trollope
From Gileskirk to Greyfriars, Walter Scott
From Glencoe to Stirling, Walter Scott
From Montrose to Culloden, Walter Scott
The Gibson Upright, Booth Tarkington
The Golden Lion of Granpere, Anthony Trollope
The Hand on My Scalpel, David C. Thompson   received
Hilaire Belloc, A. N. Wilson
The Moviegoer, Walker Percy
Poetry and Mathematics, S. Buchanan
The Practice of Reading, Denis Donoghue  received
Reader’s Companion to Ireland  received
Reading Rooms, Susan Allen Toth  received
Redeeming the Time, Russell Kirk
Romantic Scotland, Charles Maclean
Solzhenitsyn, Joseph Pearce
The Southern Tradition at Bay, Richard Weaver  received
Speak: A Short History of Languages, Tore Janson  received
Speaking of Beauty, Denis Donoghue  received
The Story of San Michele, Axel Munthe  received
Thomas Chalmers: Enthusiast for Mission, John Roxborogh
Uncle’s Dream and Other Stories, Dostoyevsky
Willie and Dwike: An American Profile, William Zinsser  received
Winslow Homer: The Nature of Observation, Elizabeth Johns
Winter Notes on Summer Impressions, Dostoyevsky

Shameless Appeal:
If you decide to give PBS a try,
would you click on the icon above
so I get a free book credit? heh heh…
I am listed under Carol B. and my “nickname” is ilovetolearn.

If any of you would like to be buddies,
feel free to invite me.
Buddies can look at each other’s bookshelfs
(books available to swap) and wish lists.

PaperBackSwap.  A good thing.


7 thoughts on “In Praise of PaperBackSwap

  1. In praise of sharing bookreviews: Wendel Berry (That Distant Land) – thank you for bringing this author into my home. I’ll have to limit myself to one story every second day (like being on a diet) and thinking about ordering the next one(?). Guns of August arrived as well and DH is reading it!!! He is (was) an avid reader – reading masses and masses of technical reports et al at work (he is a scientist) has taken away his desire to read anything at home… he makes up for it by listening to music (a good symbiosis: I get to hear the music and he the book reviews). A big thanks Carol…..Paperbackswap… South Africa… need I say more (?)

  2. That is the world’s best site! I got a beautiful copy of Good-by Mr. Chips and Other Stories, that had never even been opened! It still had the original purchase receipt in it! (I guess it had been opened once to slip that in at the book store!) It’s a great place to fill in missing books in collections as well. I have an Elizabeth George book en route right now!

  3. I joined last time you wrote about it, and I am loving it too.  Sorry I didn’t know about the free book thing.  It is a wonderful way to keep fresh books around and still avoid the creepy guys at the used book store.  I have also subscribed to PHC and DWT at your suggestion. 

  4. Only one mile to your post office?  Sounds like a good walk.  Is it safe?  I think I’m gonna make the 500 minutes this month… maybe more :)My PBS stats pale (read very low) in comparison to yours.

  5. @hiddenart –  Oh yes, Dana, it is very safe!  I have walked there many times, but I drive so much because it is easy to piggyback onto another errand.  I established a new rule at our house: the computer can’t be turned on until exercise is completed.  That has been helpful in breaking my sluggish slump.

  6. Carol, I have a whole lot of books I plan to put on PaperBack Swap as soon as I can get to it, and I will certainly use you as a reference so you get credit for it! You are indeed the first place I heard about this wonderful-sounding service.  I got two Wendell Berry books from the library for this trip: A Place on Earth and Remembering.  I started A Place on Earth this morning and can’t wait to dig into it.  They didn’t have Hannah Coulter so I may ask them to buy it.I think it’s great that you are far out of the mainstream where books are concerned. You’ve given me lots of wonderful ideas for reading. Kristin Lavransdatter was wonderful!Blessings,Sandy

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