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Web Sites Help Readers Trade Old Paperbacks And Hardcover Books

New York Daily news (Newspaper) - 6/29/2008 by ELIZABETH LAZAROWITZ DAILY NEWS BUSINESS WRITER
For book lovers, tossing out even a dog-eared potboiler from an airport bookstore seems like a crime. Now, though, readers have another, money-savvy option: trading books online.

"It's like you're sharing with friends you haven't met," said Norana Cummins, 27, a secretary from Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. She's gotten about 40 books since she joined book-swap Web site BookMooch a year and a half ago - and given away almost twice as many.

Avid readers know that a book addiction can start to take a serious bite out of a tight budget. While some classic tomes will be worth reading over and over, others will collect dust and hog shelf space - a precious commodity in many New York City apartments.

Since its launch in 2006, about 785,000 books have been traded on www.bookmooch.com. The site now has 74,000 members across 91 countries.

Membership is free - the only cost is for postage when sending out books. "Mooching" then works on a point system. List 10 books to give away, and get one point. Each book costs a point to trade domestically, or slightly more for international transactions. Members are asked to give two books for every one they receive. They can also donate points from giving away books to charities like the Prison Book Project or certain public libraries.

Online swappers say the books they receive range from well worn to like new. Brooklynite Saire Errico, 21, was happy with the aged but clean copy of travel memoir "Slowly Down the Ganges" that arrived recently in the mail.

"I'm a pretty voracious reader. This is definitely more economical than just buying books and getting rid of them, and buying more," said Errico, who lives in Williamsburg and works at New York University, where she also takes classes. Shipping costs add up, but "when you think buying a new hardcover is $25, you can send 10 books for that price."

Aside from BookMooch, there are a number of other options. www.Paperbackswap.com, also free to join, works on a similar point system. The Web site allows users to fund an account through PayPal or a credit card so that they can print postage themselves and drop the book in a mailbox.

There's also www.titletrader.com, where users again post books to swap via a point system, but may add other items, such as clothes and toys, paying only for outbound shipping. Members can pay $19.95 to add features like getting an e-mail when wishlist items are available, saving frequently used searches and marking favorite members.

Yet another option, which also includes DVDs, is www.bookins.com. The site charges members $4.49 for every item they receive. Shipping out stuff is free, and bookins lets users print out a prepaid shipping label.

Some book-swappers said they like that the sites connect them with others with a similar passion for reading.

Self-described "incurable bookworm" Anthony Penson, 34, said swapping gives him a chance to try new authors without worrying about the money he'd spend on a book he might not like. Penson, an information technology pro from Parkchester in the Bronx, has gotten half of his books through BookMooch, and often trades them back.

There are also treasures to be found - and kept - amid what others might see as trash. One mooched book Penson will be keeping on his shelf is the out-of-print hardback copy of "Black Cocktail" by modern fantasy writer Jonathan Carroll. Some online used book sellers offer similar versions of the book for around $30. But Penson found his for free on BookMooch.

"I'm never going to sell it or give it away because it's one of my favorites," he said.

elazarowitz@nydailynews.com