We’ve probably all got a collection of them: those half-finished or quarter-started books that we know we will never return to. They sit on our book shelves and remind us of our lack of staying power every time we see them. But there’s a home for books like these: book swap clubs.
Book swap clubs have grown in the past few years and look as though they have a prosperous future. Not only do they help book lovers get books for a fraction of the price they would have to pay in the book store, but they also help them incorporate their reading program into a greener way of living by getting involved in a great recycling scheme. Most books are traded for the price of postage; and some are in excellent condition.
Individuals joining book swap clubs post details of the books they wish to trade, including the book’s ISBN to help others search for a particular book they want to read. The condition of the book is also detailed, including any torn/ripped pages and bent corners (where’s a bookmark when you need one!).
Swappers build up credits and are encouraged to leave feedback about the books they’ve received – how quick they arrived in the mail and their condition. On the site paperbackswap.com, credits are needed in order to trade and you obtain two free credits on registration which you can use to request your first two books: thereafter you get a credit for every book you trade. Another site, bookmooch.com, awards one point for every book a reader swaps, and a tenth of a point for every book they register available to swap. In order to keep receiving books, a trader needs to give away at least one book for every five he or she receives.
Some book swap sites aren’t just for trading books, they’re also book-lovers’ communities with forums and chat rooms. This sort of community can be great for bookworms – the next best thing to reading a good book is talking to someone who feels the same way about it! This is one area where book swap clubs win out over libraries (unless your local librarian is willing to engage enthusiastically in conversation about your latest great read when you return it). Book swap clubs also work better for those readers who like to possess a good book, for whatever reason (some readers will re-read their favorite books, others like giving prominence to particular books, for example the classics, in their collections). A book just doesn’t tell a story inside its pages; for some, just looking at the cover of a book can evoke memories: where they read it, with whom they were involved and what was happening in their life at the time and so on. That’s why for some people, a book swap club wouldn’t work – they wouldn’t be able to part with something that did that to them!
But most of us don’t feel like that about a book we’ve struggled with for weeks only having had to give up and move on to something else. We’re more than willing to pass it on to someone who wants to read it, and if it means that we can get our hands on a book we’ve considered reading for sometime but haven’t picked up elsewhere, then that’s quite a bonus.
It’s difficult to see why books swap clubs won’t grow to become huge in the near future; they work on so many levels. They’re good for readers looking for obscure books, readers who can’t get to a bookstore or a library, readers who can’t afford to buy books, readers who are determined to adopt a green approach to their reading, and readers who want to communicate with other readers and might not be able to do so elsewhere. They’re about a lot more than just reading!