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Book Swap: Internet Site Lets Users Exchange Books

Dothan Eagle (Newspaper) - 12/27/2007 by Staff
It started with a couple hundred paperback books.

Richard Pickering used to travel a lot on business and bought paperback books to read. He’d read a book one time and never pick it up again. Before he knew it, he had a collection of several hundred books. He took his collection to a used book store, which only bought four or five of his books. He tried selling them on Amazon and eBay, but that didn’t work either.

Frustrated, Pickering and programmer Robert Swarthout started an online service so people can swap their used books. After three years, their Web site — www.paperbackswap.com — features 1.7 million books and averages 35,000 swaps a week.

“It’s really about trying to share things in a way that’s most economical,” said Pickering, who lives in Atlanta but stopped in Dothan recently.

Locally, there are 22 members in a five-mile radius of Dothan who use the Internet book swapping service. All you need is an e-mail address, a mailing address and at least 10 books you’re willing to list on the Web site and swap with other users. The only cost is postage and a few extra services a user may choose to use. Each new user gets two credits in order to select their first two books.

For Patsy Glover of Dothan it’s like Christmas every time she gets a book in the mail.

“I’m addicted to it,” she said. “I try new authors. If I don’t like them, then I’ve not spent a lot of money.”

Users receive an e-mail when someone wants a book they have listed on the Web site. With every book mailed, a user receives another credit to select books.

Pickering said the idea is to make swapping books as easy as possible. The Web site calculates postage for users and even provides a mailing wrapper with addresses and post office bar code that can be printed from the Web site. Paperback Swap will even provide postage for 22 cents. Books can be mailed anywhere in the United States and U.S. territories and arrive in about a week. A book is yours to keep or swap.

Paperback Swap lists hardcover books and audio books. It also has discussion forums and chat rooms for members. There are separate sites for CD and DVD swapping.

Laura Martin of Dothan has used the service for 18 months. An admitted book hoarder, Martin said she uses the service to fill out her collections of favorite authors. She’ll list and swap books that she doesn’t like enough to keep and re-read.

“When an author has 12 books out, that gets expensive,” Martin said.

Other users said the Internet service is also a good way to find rare, out-of-print books and specific genres.

“I read mostly science books,” Dothan resident Mark Evans said. “You don’t find a good selection of science books in Dothan, Ala. ... It’s great for people who read a lot of paperbacks.
It still works well for the person who’s off that center.”
Evans has received 47 books from Paperback Swap and has been swapping less than a year.

There are sections on the Web site designed for homeschoolers, teachers and college students.

Carla Nunez has received 216 books and mailed 290 in just two years of swapping on the site. The Ozark resident has found useful reference books on Paperback Swap. But once she’s done with them, she doesn’t really need them.

“I can post it and let somebody else enjoy it,” Nunez said.