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Inside Neverending Search for booklovers in tight times

It’s a long-tail flea market for booklovers and it might be especially welcome in these especially tight times.

My daughter’s boyfriend Jim introduced me to this morning.  I began to think about how this particular 2.0 social networking tool might change the way I shop for books for me and for my library and for booklovers at large.  The site allows you to trade books with readers across the country, offering more than 2.6 million books, traded by nearly 1700 members, at a rate of about 40,000 books a week.

PaperBackSwap’s motto:
Your source for swapping books online.  Read. . . swap. . . save!

Here’s how it works:

  • Register for free.
  • Post the books you are willing to swap with others.
  • You get two free book credits for posting your first 10 books (a club-warming gift).
  • Browse or search by title, author, or genre.  You can also filter for large print, audio CD, audio cassette, paperback, or hardcover.
  • You may use your two free credits to request your first two books. Audio books cost two credits. (Your requests are mailed at the posters expense.)
  • If a book you want is not available, you can leave a wishlist.  The site generates an email when a book on your wish list matches up with what someone else has to offer.
  • You will get an email when someone requests the books you post
  • If you accept a request for one of your own books, you will mail the book to the requester at your expense. (You pay postage–typically between $2.00 and $4.00–when you send a book, others pay postage when they send to you.)  The site provides a function that generates a postage-paid wrapper and label.
  • When your book is received by a requester you get an additional credit
  • You may opt to keep a buddy list, send thank you notes, participate in forum discussions, and tag books based on a variety of criteria to create useful lists

What kinds of books are available for swapping?  While you may not be able to get a copy of Breaking Dawn on PaperBackSwap, you can browse through a variety of available Newbery titles.  You can pick up a few Norton anthologies.  You can replace copies of your overused Civil War fiction for that annual American history assignment.

Some other uses for swapping?

  • I can see high school and college students trading last semester’s readings for this semester’s new requirements. 
  • I can see book clubs members swapping multiple copies of the last reading for an copies of an upcoming reading
  • I can see myself swapping copies of those extra gift paperbacks I never processed for books I really need.
  • This might be a really good tool to share with homebound friends (including those who need audio or large print)
  • This may be a perfect way to replace important out-of-print titles.
  • Depending on your district’s policy, you may be able to get rid of items that just do not move off your shelves for those that will.
  • You can exchange expensive audio books you’ve already listened to with those you’ve yet to hear.
  • You may be to rid your personal bookshelf of titles that have been gathering dust for years.
  • You may discover the back catalog of a favorite author
  • New books enter the catalog every hour and you will likely discover all sorts of new stuff to read.

Back in June Richard Pickering, who began the site four years ago with his own paperback collection, also launched and

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. The Crafty Librarian says:

    That sounds lovely! If only it extended to Australia!

  2. I have used for about a year now (similar idea). I’ve replaced worn bestsellers at school, filled in holes in series, and found some “out of print” titles. There is a feature to “wishlist” a title, so if you are willing to wait and can jump fast when it comes available, you can get a copy of Breaking Dawn .

    And it is international – I just got a copy of Lord of the Flies in Italian for a visiting student who is struggling with it in his English class.

  3. Way cool, Missa! Thanks for pointing to another choice for us all!

  4. I have tried all of the swapping sites, and the best by far is Swaptree ( You can trade books, CDs, DVDs, and video games for free. Best of all…no points system (that makes no sense to me and I already belong to enough points systems). They also haves really COO multi-way trading platform. Great site.

  5. joycevalenza says:

    Thanks for the additional tip, Reginald. We just started trading this week and it is working great. We’re getting rid of stuff we can’t use (cleaning up the back room and the faculty swap table) and getting the things we really need! The more the merrier!

  6. Chrisrobin06 says:

    I have used PaperbackSwap for over two years and really love it. I use it not only for my own books but to swap some paperbacks for the kids too. I even upgraded to become a Box of Books Member, which means for $8 a year you can swap entire boxes of books rather than individual books. I really love this option because it is much more economical and I have found that often other boxers have lots of books I want and vice-versa. It is a great service!

  7. joycevalenza says:

    An update: we have lots of credits now. We found it real easy to clean up that shelf of gift books we didn’t want as well books that didn’t move on the teachers’ swap table. We’re in line to get the titles we really need. So far, we love it!

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