Discussion Forums - Questions about PaperBackSwap Questions about PaperBackSwap

Topic: Lots of problems lately, anyone else?

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Lots of problems lately, anyone else?
Date Posted: 11/12/2014 7:13 PM ET
Member Since: 6/3/2008
Posts: 12
Back To Top

I've been having problems with people sending me books with highlighting in them.  There have been three in a row that have only PMed me with this info after sending the book out, so I could not cancel the order.  The last one PMed me and asked if I still wanted it.  When I said no, to cancel the order, she gave me attitude ("You don't want a free book?  No problem!") but I saw she had sent it prior to PMing me, just as the other two people had.  

I am obviously going to report all three as RWAP and include their PMs as evidence that they were aware of the books' conditions not meeting PBS posting standards and sent them w/o giving me a chance to cancel (maybe they thought I wouldn't report the swap as RWAP if they PMed me?).  I will also be requesting a refund credit from each sender (though this doesn't seem likely with the last sender) and am willing to return the book if they also pay for its postage or give me an extra credit.  And before anyone jumps, I have always been courteous in PMs and will continue to be so.  

Is there anything PBS can do about this?  I've saved all PM exchanges.  Different interpretations of book conditions is one thing.  I would even be OK with a book that was just over the unacceptable line if the sender was genuinely mistaken.  I have accepted books in the past that were less than acceptable because the sender PMed me before printing the wrapper or sending the book.  If it's a book I really want and/or have been waiting on for a while, I'll likely take it as long as the content is legible.  But in all three of these cases, these people knew their books weren't swappable and not only did they send them anyway, they only sent a PM after it was too late to cancel the order.  How's that for a slap in the face?

I wouldn't be so frustrated if it was an occasional occurrence but this has happened with my last three orders, and it's not the only problem I've experienced lately with books not meeting PBS criteria.  One book I received a few weeks ago wasn't only highlighted and marked up, but the cover was really messed up and a lot of the pages were dogeared or torn.  Another recent order consisted of a scratched up audiobook that I couldn't listen to passed the third disc because it kept skipping.  

Is it just me?  Has anyone else had problems lately?  Within the last several months, I've noticed an increase in bad book conditions and people taking forever to respond to WL orders or requests.  What's really frustrating is that I have always followed PBS rules, never post/send a book that doesn't meet posting criteria, and do my best to be nice to other members, even during a dispute.  Is it too much to expect the same in return???

Date Posted: 11/12/2014 7:30 PM ET
Member Since: 3/13/2009
Posts: 202
Back To Top

No, I've been fortunate to get very nice books almost all the time. If, however, things for you are just as stated I feel your actions are reasonable and justified.

Date Posted: 11/12/2014 7:40 PM ET
Member Since: 4/28/2009
Posts: 9,990
Back To Top

it seems like lots of us go through cycles where we will get several bad swaps in a short period then a long time without any problems, then another short period with multiple issues.  Hopefully you've had your '3 strikes' and won't get any more for a good long time.  Sorry you've had this bout of bad luck with swaps.

Date Posted: 11/12/2014 8:31 PM ET
Member Since: 6/2/2014
Posts: 11,042
Back To Top
I only had one bad swap and I wish I would've rwap .. I didn't due to not understanding how rwap worked. Now, I feel badly because this person will most likely send unpostable books to another member. I'm sorry you're having a bad streak, I hope the streak turns around with the next swap.
Date Posted: 11/13/2014 2:53 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2007
Posts: 1,020
Back To Top

Books with highlighting, writing, and dog-eared pages may have been used as classroom texts. Literature, history and philosophy courses, for example, often include books that are not traditional textbooks in their reading lists.

If the books were read to fulfill a course requirement, members posting them may consider them to fall under the PBS textbook exception in regard to highlighting and writing. However, in these cases the PBS rule requires that the sender contact the requestor to describe book condition and obtain PM consent from the requestor before sending.

From the Help Center Book Condition Criteria for 'Swappability' at PBS

Writing or highlighting or underlining on the text pages is NOT OKAY

  • Exception: if it is a textbook or workbook, these are expected to have highlighting/underlining/writing
    • if you post a textbook/workbook, the condition must be described to the requestor in a Personal Message
    • AND the described condition MUST BE AGREED TO in a reply PM before the book is sent
    • You can use the PM button on the request on your My Account page to send a message
    • This is the one of the ONLY three cases in which a PM exchange about a book is required before the book can be sent (the others are for travel guidebooks and cookbooks).
    • Please read What is the definition of a textbook? for a discussion of that.

Click on the link for What is the definition of a textbook? to read more about textbooks and the textbook exception.

Although this may or may not apply to the books described in the OP, the exception may provide an explanation for receiving books with highlighting and writing.


Last Edited on: 11/14/14 2:20 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/13/2014 4:32 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
Posts: 4,815
Back To Top

I know this is frustrating; you might consider adding a Requestor Condition to the extent of "I am not willing to accept books with highlighting, writing or underlining", to help sort that issue out before it even gets to PMs.  Then they can just decline based on your RC.

Date Posted: 11/13/2014 10:16 PM ET
Member Since: 6/3/2008
Posts: 12
Back To Top

The books in question definitely weren't textbooks.

Elizabeth, I have done just that as well as linking to the PBS criteria page.  I shouldn't have to but oh well, it's better than being frustrated.

I did receive a PM from someone who had forgotten about the highlighting and apologized, which was a pleasant surprise.  I didn't give anyone the benefit of the doubt after getting attitude from that other member, but the apology proved that more people than not probably aren't like that.

Thanks for letting me vent.

Last Edited on: 11/13/14 10:18 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/14/2014 2:11 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
Back To Top

Yes, these seem to arrive in waves.  And I've also noticed a (much) higher percentage of highlighting based on the genre....for me it was when I was ordering classic literature, books that may have been used in English class such as Tale of Two Cities, Animal Farm, Scarlet Letter, Romeo & Juliet, etc.  The response to my RWAP was often along the lines of 'you just need it for the kid to read in school, what does it matter if it's highlighted (notated, water damaged, broken binding, etc)?'

Keep in mind that TPTB have a broad defination of Textbook and include any book that may have been used in a class situation.  Regardless tho, the Textbook Clause applies to them all.

Last Edited on: 11/14/14 2:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/14/2014 3:12 PM ET
Member Since: 7/9/2006
Posts: 18
Back To Top

I have received only one bad book and that was the first one I ordered years ago.  It was very grubby.  What was funny was that I came here to complain and the person who sent it to me saw my complaint and said she disagreed with me.

Most of the books I have received have been very nice.

If I get a book less than I expect here I can accept that more easily than if I order and pay for a book on Amazon or elsewhere.  If the seller says it's new, like new, or very good--that's what I expect.  And boy, have I been disappointed!

Date Posted: 11/16/2014 10:09 AM ET
Member Since: 12/31/2010
Posts: 3,289
Back To Top

Wow. I didn't even know there was a textbook clause. Here I've been donating some really good/recent textbooks with minimal highlighting.


Date Posted: 11/24/2014 12:18 AM ET
Member Since: 6/3/2008
Posts: 12
Back To Top

I wouldn't consider any of the books in question to be used in class.  I've read and often refer back to posting rules, and the textbook clause wouldn't apply.

I just got yet another PM, this time prior to the guy sending the book, for one with highlighting in it.  And when I said I didn't want it, he responded with a "your loss" attitude.  Really?  

I've sent a question/feedback to the site admins about this.  It's getting to the point that I'd be better to just stick with the library and buying books outright, and forget about swapping altogether.  

Date Posted: 11/24/2014 3:36 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2007
Posts: 1,020
Back To Top

I'm sorry to read that you are having so many problems with swapped books, Phoenixorion. I have received many books through PBS and I'd estimate that more than 85% have been in good or good+ condition, with most of the rest being in okay to good condition and only a small number being unacceptable or non-compliant with PBS rules. I do use a simple RC to remind senders of the PBS golden rule regarding no writing or highlighting, so maybe that helps prevent receiving non-compliant and poor quality books. Or perhaps I'm just lucky.

Last Edited on: 11/25/14 2:03 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/24/2014 10:29 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,090
Back To Top

I wouldn't consider any of the books in question to be used in class.  I've read and often refer back to posting rules, and the textbook clause wouldn't apply.

The textbook clause could potentially apply to any book. When I took a sci-fi literature class in college, our "textbooks" were all fiction. Sci-fi novels.

I also took a history class called "History of World War III (yes, 3)", and we had lots of non-fiction texts, but there was also a couple of sci-fi novels in that one as well.

Date Posted: 11/24/2014 2:43 PM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2006
Posts: 9,348
Back To Top

I like this Help doc:

What is the definition of a textbook?

Actually, the way the system and rules are designed, it does not matter what the "objective definition" of a textbook is.  The club members decide this - as long as the rules in the Book Condition Criteria for 'Swappability' at PBS are followed.  See the explanation and examples below.

If a member considers her book a textbook she may Post it with underlining/highlighting/writing on text pages, according to the "textbook exception" in the Book Condition Criteria for 'Swappability' at PBS; BUT since the textbook exception in the Book Condition Criteria for 'Swappability' at PBS require her to contact the requestor and obtain PM consent to the book's condition, she won't be in the position of sending a "stealth textbook" to someone who doesn't expect to receive one.

Examples/further explanation:

  • Member A posts an Economics 101 textbook - something that most people would clearly consider a textbook.   
  • Following the Book Condition Criteria for 'Swappability' at PBS textbook exception rules, she sends a Personal Message to the requestor when she gets a request, describing the book's condition.
  • Chances are good that she will get PM consent from the requestor to send the book with highlighting/etc. 
  • Member B posts a novel (fiction) that she used in a class - something that most people would NOT consider a textbook.
    • Following the Book Condition Criteria for 'Swappability' at PBS textbook exception rules, she sends a Personal Message to the requestor when she gets a request, describing the book's condition.
    • Chances are good that she will NOT get PM consent from the requestor to send the book with highlighting/etc.
    • If the requestor declines the book in its condition, Member B will have to cancel the request and repost her book.  It will go to the 'back of the line' for requests.  (If it is a Wish Listed book, it will be offered to the same wisher and the sender will again have to cancel.  She will have to wait for the wishing member to get a copy of this book from someone else before Member B can post her copy again.)

So, the farther the book is from a 'textbook' in common perception, the more likely it will be difficult to get consent to its condition.  Members in Member B's situation may encounter several declines, and will eventually realize that the book is not likely to be acceptable to the club in its condition.  Member B will stop trying to offer it as a "textbook"  and will consider it instead an unpostable/damaged book.

In this way, the club defines "textbook" on a case-by-case basis, and no one who is following the rules will be able to "surprise" another person with a highlighted/written-in/underlined book.

Ms K. (MsK) -
Date Posted: 12/4/2014 1:26 PM ET
Member Since: 10/1/2005
Posts: 126
Back To Top

I very nicely and politely notify the sender of the posting rules when I receive a book that isn't even close to PBS standards. I've been fortunate that no one has given me attitude. If they do, I let TPTB handle it.

Recently, I rec'd a book with a coffee splash on the outside paper edges (the side opposite the spine) I let the sender know, and I told her that I didn't need the credit back, but reminded her of the rules. I also said that she might have missed seeing it. When she replied, she admitted not seeing the coffee stain. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but I'll report RWAPs so that if there is a pattern of substandard books, it can be remedied.

Date Posted: 12/4/2014 2:48 PM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2009
Posts: 559
Back To Top

Tracy's response above is usually what I get when I RWAP because of highlighting/writing that wasn't PMed about. Most of the members I've interacted with have no idea that highlighting is not within the standard PBS condition standards.

Same thing happens with dust jackets, in the opposite direction - lots of people think that PBS requires you to have a dust jacket with any hardback that originally came with one, rather than what the PBS rules say, that if you must have DJs it's your responsibility to have a requestor condition. Same with ex-library books; I've gotten several non-valid RWAPs on sending those.

All of this stuff is in the PBS rules and the help docs but a lot of people don't seem to read them at all.


Date Posted: 12/4/2014 6:55 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2009
Posts: 10,090
Back To Top

All of this stuff is in the PBS rules and the help docs but a lot of people don't seem to read them at all.

They are hard to find and not very searchable.

They would be a lot more findable if they were labeled "How to Use this Site" instead of "Help Center".

I'm honestly more surprised when I find out someone has read them, than when I find out someone has never even seen them. I think most people learn about the site by looking at the Questions About Paperback Swap forum.

Last Edited on: 12/4/14 6:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/5/2014 3:01 PM ET
Member Since: 8/3/2009
Posts: 559
Back To Top

True, the help docs are not very user-friendly. The condition guidelines are linked-to whenever you list a book, however.

Date Posted: 1/12/2015 6:22 PM ET
Member Since: 3/24/2009
Posts: 2
Back To Top

I have only had one problem, but, didn't ask for my credits back. I have had a problem, just, today, with a person claiming a book was falling apart! It was only read once and carefully sent in a padded mailer.

Date Posted: 1/12/2015 7:55 PM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2008
Posts: 7,759
Back To Top

I've been having a rash of more-frequent-than-normal RWAPs as well, and agree that genre has a lot to do with the numbers of RWAPs I get.  I've been ordering more kids' and teens' books lately for my school library, and many of those are coming with problems such as water damage, mold, writing on text pages, or just plain unpostable.  So, yes, it does come in waves, but it also seems to happen in some genres more than others.