Mike and I are book-aholics. My newest crack supplier is PaperBackSwap. It provides all the fun of cleaning out your old books, making lists, collecting credits, and getting new books. And it's all nearly free.
What happens is you request books you want and the person who has one sends it to you. There's no cost for you to receive a book. The sender pays the shipping. They say there's no catch but there sort of is. In order to get a book, you have to have credits. When you first join you get 2 credits when you upload 10 books to swap. Then for every book that you send to someone, you receive one credit. As the sender paying the shipping though, you're actually paying $2 to $3 in order to get that credit. That's still a pretty good deal.
I read about this at Green Tea Rocks a few days ago and finally decided to give it a try. It took me a while to decide which books I could part with. But it gets addicting and soon I was examining every book in the house. After my first 10 books were up, I learned that some of them were on other peoples' wish lists and within 24 hours 5 of my books had confirmed requests. Wow! My first taste of credits. What other books can I post?
Once you've confirmed you'll mail the books, you can print mailing labels directly from the site. There are options for postage-paid and delivery confirmation labels, or plain ones that you add stamps to yourself. Most books ship for the media rate of just over $2. If you do the PBS postage and delivery options, the price gets raised to just under $3. I used their handy mileage calculator and found that it's a whopping 3 cents cheaper to do all the paying and printing from home rather than take the books to the post office, even with the extra charges from PBS for those options.
Wrapping the books can be cumbersome. You can print out a 2-page PBS wrapper and use it to wrap the book in regular printer paper. I tried that with one book, but it happened to be one that was too big for printer paper. You can print out one-page labels that I used for the rest of my books. I already have plenty of packing materials on-hand without using up printer paper. I reused a padded envelope for a particularly flimsy book. But for most books I found a sturdy brown paper bag worked best (and depending on the size of the books you can wrap up to 3 of them with one bag). I hope I'm not only sending books, but also a message of reuse-reduce-recycle.
If you're using the postage paid option, you have to add money to your PBS account (with a 50-cent transaction fee). Also, double-check the estimated weight if you have a scale. All of my books weighed slightly more than the PBS estimate. I was planning on dropping my books in the mailbox, but since I have to go to the post office tomorrow anyway I'll have them check the postage.
Right now I'm concentrating on downsizing the book collectiong before we pack and move. Once we get settled somewhere, I'll start getting some new books. Although, I did want to try out the receiving part of the system, so I've requested 2. I can't wait to get them!
It seems like a lot of trouble, I know, but it's not that bad. It's easier than ebay. It's cheaper than Amazon and B&N. If you want a book that's not available, you can put it on your wish list and they'll notify you when someone posts it. It's like the library, only you don't have to return the book ever. (You can re-post it when your'e done reading it though.)
If this all sounds like fun instead of work to you, check out my books. If you decide to join by clicking the button below, I'll get your referral... and more credits! (If you are someone I know in real life and want me to send you a book without joining PBS, just email me and I'm happy to do so.)
Update:I just added a bunch of children's books, mostly from publishers I used to work for. There are some picture books but most are library/research books for middle- and high-school level. Mostly history and biography.