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Epilogue For Finished Books At Paperbackswap.com

Ledger-Enquirer (Newspaper) - 12/16/2007 by BY SARA PAUFF - spauff@ledger-enquirer.com --
Epilogue for finished books at Paperbackswap.com

Madeline Smith is a serious reader.

"I always have books in my car -- I read books in the check-out line," said Smith, gesturing to the various tomes scattered around her: a biography of Katherine Hepburn, a book on hockey and several science fiction and fantasy novels.

The Columbus resident said she averages about 30 books a month.

Smith is a member of Paperbackswap.com, a networking Web site based in Suwanee, Ga., that allows members to swap books with readers across the country for the cost of postage. And Smith is exactly the kind of reader the site's founder, Richard Pickering, is looking for.

"The majority of our readers are serious readers," he said.

Pickering, an enthusiastic reader himself, started the site three years ago after looking for a use for the discarded books he had bought to read while traveling for business.

He tried taking them to used book stores or selling them online but sometimes had trouble exchanging books if there were already too many copies in stock.

"There's gotta be another way to do this," he said.

To join Paperbackswap.com, members list 10 books of their own in the site's library that they wouldn't mind swapping with other readers. In return, they get two credits to use in the library, which has about 1.7 million books from multiple genres. Titles are available in hardcover and paperback, as well as audio books.

Members also get book credits to use in the library when they ship a book to another member.

To exchange books, members print off a pre-addressed book wrapper from the site, wrap the book and ship it, paying the cost of postage -- usually about $1.59 for a paperback, according to the site. Once a member is finished with a book, the reader can keep it or list it on the site to exchange again.

"It's wonderful -- all you pay is postage," said Smith, who has exchanged about 75 books through the site. She said she collects science fiction and fantasy novels from the site, but still buys new books that she will read and exchange with other members.

"I read it once, I'm done with it, I post it," she said.

For hard-to-find or high-demand texts, the site also has a wish-list feature. Members list the books they want to read, and when that book becomes available for a swap the member is notified through e-mail. The most swapped genres on the site are mystery, thrillers and romance, Pickering said.

The site also offers discussion forums and chat rooms for members to talk about what they've read recently. Pickering met Smith and fellow Paperbackswap.com member Gretchen Jones for the first time face-to-face Thursday, though he had sent them messages through the site before.

"We don't know each other, but we know each other," he said.

The site has about 60,000 active members nationwide, but only about 15 reside in Columbus. Pickering said he hopes local membership for the site will increase, as well as membership at Paperbackswap.com's two sister sites, Swapacd.com and Swapadvd.com.

Funds to maintain the site come from fees from an optional delivery confirmation service and through the Box-O-Books program, in which members pay $8 a year to swap multiple books with one other member.

"I mailed a book to someone three miles from me, and I mailed a book to Honolulu, Hawaii," Jones said.
Contact Sara Pauff at 706-320-4469