Saturday, March 21, 2009

Do You Love Books?

I must admit, I was born a booklover. Both my parents were avid readers. My Dad belong to several “…of the Month” clubs, and one of my favorite photos of him is where he is seated at his desk, and nearby there is a pile of books stacked almost to the ceiling. I do come by it naturally. When I was four I had my very own bookcase filled with books. I still have it, as well as some of those favorites from way back when. That's me on the left, in my favorite dress at the time, with roosters all over it. Over the years I’ve purchased many books, and while some have been brand new, most have been used books, ex-library books, or vintage books. I seem to prefer older books. Once I read an author I like, I like to find all their books. Or collect all the books on a particular subject. I have bookcases in every room of the house except the bathroom, which only houses a magazine rack.

Collecting books, like any other hobby, can be expensive, even when looking for bargain priced books. A few years ago, I was made aware of the website PaperbackSwap, and over time, my library has increased while my book budget has shrunk!

Now, before you jump to the first conclusion, let me tell you: this website isn’t just for paperbacks. I don’t even like to buy paperbacks, because usually I want to keep the book and therefore want a hardcover. But PaperbackSwap has all versions of books: paperback, hardcover, audio cassette, and audio CD.

The basic rules are this: You create an account, and list five books that you would like to give away. Right up front you are given three credits, which you can then use to “order” books from other members. When someone requests one of your books, you get an e-mail message. If you agree to send the book, then on the website you will be given the requestor’s name and address on a printable label. You pay the postage cost to send out the book. When the book is received, you get a credit for it. That, basically, is it. If you see a book you want, you can request it, and soon it’s on the way to your address. For free!

Although part of the idea can be to receive a book, read it, and then re-list it for someone else to claim, you are not bound to re-trade any book you receive. I’ve kept over 95% of the books I’ve received.

Most of the books I’ve requested have been hardcover, and with only a few small exceptions, many have been in very good to excellent condition, many being like-new. These books would have cost a pretty penny to purchase new in the store, even at a discount. I’ve been able to use several as gifts.

The books I list for trade are books that I’ve decided I no longer have an interest in, or have duplicate copies of, or are paperbacks that I’ve replaced with hardcover editions.

Some categories on PaperbackSwap are less well-stocked than others. If you are looking for current fiction, you’ll find it, although there might be a wait for the really popular books. No problem, just add the book to your wish list, and when it’s available, you’ll be notified. Knitting books, however, are scarce as hens’ teeth, and get snapped up the moment they get listed.

Of course, browsing the site has led me to discover all sorts of new books and authors that I’d never even heard of. And, since there are books of every age, I’ve even found a few vintage editions to add to my collection.

This little narrative just scratches the surface of how PaperbackSwap works. They also have sister sites for CDs and DVDs. If you’re interested in books, and in saving money, check it out!

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