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Breaking Into The Book Trade On The Internet

The Florida Times-Union (Newspaper) - 4/28/2007 by Christy Whitehead
The Florida Times-Union : Breaking Into The Book Trade On The Internet What to do with all those old paperbacks taking up room in your house that the used book store won't take back?

Donate?

Worse yet, throw them away?

Hundreds of people across Northeast Florida are turning to the Internet to trade books for only the cost of shipping.

Brenda Leon of Arlington considers herself a voracious reader and has two bookshelves full, several boxes and a couple of stacks.

"I had books literally bulging at the seams in this apartment," she said. "My husband was begging me to get rid of some."

Leon works all day and also takes care of her mother. She says by the time she gets home she doesn't have time to go to the bookstore.

A friend told Leon about www.paperbackswap.com, and the first day she posted 20 books. After that she said she dug through her bookshelf and posted 100 more.

The site, created by a Georgia man, is free to join. Co-founder Richard Pickering said he started it after getting frustrated at the cost of ordering books online.

There have been more than a million books posted since the site was created in 2004. About 30,000 books get traded every month on the site.

For every book members ship to another member, they get a credit to get a book of their choosing from any member on the site.

Members can search the site by name, author, best-sellers, genre and more.

When they post a book, they can also post their own book review.

But members don't have to just post paperbacks; they can also post hardback books. And the site has also started adding a CD swap section.

Since becoming a member in September, Leon has gotten rid of about 105 books and received about 50.

"I've been kind of conservative about ordering [books]; I'm looking for a bigger place," Leon said. "I forewarned my husband that when we get a bigger place the book collection will get worse."

Peggy Haynes runs a no-kill animal sanctuary on the Northside and reads a book a day. She has been a member of the site for almost two years and estimates she has gotten rid of 80 to 90 books on it.

She likes the idea of "shopping" in the comfort of her own home for books and said the site has enabled her to find certain books in a series she enjoys and also to find new authors.

Leon said she has been introduced to a lot of new authors because of Paperback Swap.

She can't think of any books she has gotten that she hated, but she says that if a book gets violent or depressing she has to put it down.

"Doing what I do all day, trying to find abandoned and stray animals safe havens, I prefer happy books that have interesting characters," Haynes said.

Both women estimate their current book collections number over 700. Both say the site has been a major money saver: Paperbackswap.com says the average cost of shipping a paperback is $1.59.

Haynes said that while the site helps her save money, it also makes her feel good that she may be helping someone else out as well.

"Maybe by sharing I might be helping someone save money and time if they are looking for a particular book," she said.