Press & Media » Recordnet.com


Swapping Items On Web Cheap, Easy And Prevents Waste

Recordnet.com (Newspaper) - 1/22/2007 by Sara Cardine
Stockton resident Beth Street used to pay dearly for her love of romance novels, spending more than $50 each month to get her favorite titles from the Harlequin Romance Book Club.

Then she got a tip from a friend on how to get the same books for free.

As a member of the book-sharing Web site www.paperbackswap.com, all Street had to do to get books mailed to her free of charge was agree to mail books she didn't want to other members throughout the country.

Street is one of millions of American consumers deciding to ditch the dollars-to-Dumpster approach to buying entertainment media. Thanks to the Internet, if you own something and aren't going to use it but can't bear to throw it away, you can post the item online for others who may want it. Usually, you pay shipping to send it to other members; they, in turn, send their stuff to you.

"It makes great economic sense," said Richard Pickering, co-founder of www.paperback swap.com and www.swapaCD.com, which boast nearly 1 million titles.

Pickering, who developed the idea with a Georgia college student-turned-colleague, used to buy paperback novels at airports during his frequent business trips. After a while, he had a lot of gently used books and nothing to do with them.

Pickering tried to sell them online or to used bookstores but became frustrated by their pickiness and thrift.

Now, Pickering himself has found homes for hundreds of unwanted books and CDs and still uses his Web sites to chat with other readers and write reviews. Those sites are among a growing number of sharing and swapping outlets that are appealing to waste-conscious consumers.

With more than 3 million members nationwide, www.freecycle.org lets people post unwanted items online. In Stockton alone, Freecycle groups make up to 400 transactions each month, according to an online traffic indicator.

Users simply join groups online for free to connect with others in their area looking to share what they have.

Another popular site, www.craigslist.org, creates online communities where people can sell items or post them for free to people willing to come pick them up.

Though the popularity of online sharing networks is swelling, Lodi used-book store owner Tom Kohlhepp said he is confident there will always be a need for the tried-and-true method of paying in person. Tom's Used Books has no shortage of faithful customers who come in to chat face-to-face about books, news and life in general.

The classic used-book store atmosphere, Kohlhepp added, is what will keep traditional outlets in business even as the Internet grows.

For bookworms such as Street, however, nothing beats getting all the books you love for a fraction of the price.

"It's a fun way to be involved with people all over the country," she said. "You can develop e-mail friendships. If you don't like it, you can always opt out."

On the Web

www.paperbackswap.com: With nearly 1 million titles available, members list books they'd be willing to part with and agree to pay $1.59 in shipping to send them to others. In exchange, members get books on their wish lists sent to them for free. Membership is free and the site lets users post reviews and chat with other readers.

www.swapaCD.com: Free registration lets people browse thousands of CD titles owned by members across the country willing to mail them at no cost. Members do have to pay shipping to mail their CDs to those who request them.

www.freecycle.org: Members post items they are willing to give away free. The idea is part of a nationwide movement toward sustainable living.

www.stockton.craigslist.org: Craigslist features personal ads, jobs and rental information. Listed in the "for sale" category, however, are things people in the Stockton, Lodi, Tracy and Manteca area are willing to let go. Most listings request the receivers pick up the items.

www.thefreesite.com: This lists hundreds of sites where users can download free cell phone features, fonts, graphics and pictures or get free samples of cosmetics, coffee and other products.