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Web Site Lets People Connect Through Paperback Books

Journal & Courier (Newspaper) - 7/25/2007 by DOROTHY SCHNEIDER
Journal & Courier : Web Site Lets People Connect Through Paperback Books dschneider@journalandcourier.com

Like most avid readers, Lynn Maniak started to develop a space crunch from the books she has accumulated over the years.

Then two years ago, the Lafayette resident discovered the Web site www.paperbackswap.com, which facilitates free book trades between its members. The site enables readers from across the country to get new reading materials without forcing them to expand their residence.

"It's quite a service," Maniak said. "I've always been a reader -- since I was too small to have a library card. And I do read library books as well. ...But for people like myself who like books, there's a joy in owning them."

Richard Pickering helped start the Georgia-based book swap three years ago as a way to get rid of many titles he'd collected through years of business travel. He wanted an alternative forum for book trade because it wasn't cost-effective to sell them on other sites.

Pickering never envisioned the Paperback Swap would grow to include members in all 50 states and offer 1.4 million books, as it does today.

The concept is simple. Users list books and earn one credit each time they send a book out. The credits can then be redeemed to request others' books.

Users have to pay the postage -- usually between $2 and $3 -- when they send a book out, but then the favor is returned and they pay nothing for books being sent to them.

Rite Bulington of Lafayette said the site is invaluable to her. She moderates two book clubs -- one online and one through her church -- and is married to a fellow book-a-holic.

"Paperback Swap has come to my rescue a lot of times," Bulington said, because of the reading requirements from her book clubs. "When I can get library books, I do, but I'm not the fastest reader in the world so I prefer to get my own copy and not worry about getting it back in time."

Bulington said she's been impressed with the quality of the books she's received. Often the books look like new when they arrive in the mail, she said.

And despite its name, the site also allows users to share hardcover and audiobooks.

Pickering said one of the strongest elements of www.paperbackswap.com is the social network it's created.

"We have messaging, discussion forums and live chat features that are used in introducing members to each other," he said. "We've helped people develop long-lasting friendships over like interests."

"It's wonderful bringing people together from so far apart."