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Free Enterprise: Book-, CD-, DVD-trading Web Sites Offer Lots Of Options For The Cost Of Postage

knoxnews.com (Newspaper) - 3/9/2009 by Nancy Twigg
Imagine a library of more than 3 million books - all free for the asking and just a mouse click away.

Technically, the books aren't completely free. To be eligible to receive a book, you must first give away a book and pay the postage to send it to the person who requested it. For the cost of mailing one book, you receive a credit you can use to request a book you want, which is sent to you free of charge.

This "mail one, get one" system of sharing books is the foundation of Paperback Swap, an online venue that unites book lovers across the country. With 120,000 active members and more than three million books up for trade, Paperback Swap allows even the most voracious readers to support their reading habits inexpensively.

Paperback Swap started in 1994 as the brainchild of Richard Pickering of Suwanee, Ga. At the time, Pickering traveled extensively for his job and accumulated boxes of books purchased in airports. Even though the books were in good condition, Pickering was shocked when the local used bookstore would only take a few of them. He also tried reselling the books on Amazon and eBay, but found it to be cost prohibitive.

"I knew there had to be a better way," says Pickering, who together with co-founder Robert Swarthout started the Paperback Swap Web site by putting a hundred or so of Pickering's books up for swap. The idea caught on quickly. Soon members from all over the U.S. began cashing in on the benefits of swapping books online. Books are now being traded on PaperbackSwap.com at a rate of 45,000 books per week.

The success of Paperback Swap led Pickering and Swarthout to provide similar venues for music and movie lovers. The partners launched SwapaCD.com in 2007. SwapaDVD.com followed in 2008.

Karns resident Tricia Bollmann has been a Paperback Swap member since 2006. During that time, she has swapped close to 100 books. "My nightstand is covered with nothing but books I want to read," Bollman confesses. "I really don't need to request another book for a long time."

Bollman has about 40 books listed for swap and usually gets 2-3 requests for books from her list per month. Each time she mails out a book, another credit is added to her account. Currently she has 30+ credits saved up for future use.

Besides saving money, Bollman also enjoy the convenience factor Paperback Swap provides: "I don't have to go to the library or worry about returning books on time. I don't even have to go to a used bookstore to get books. I can do it all from home."

Getting started with Paperback Swap is simple. First go to www.PaperbackSwap.com and sign up for a free account. Begin posting books you have and are willing to trade. When you have 10 books posted, you earn two free credits that you can use to request books from other members. As other members request your books, you receive one additional credit for each book you ship. To make the shipping process easier, postage can be purchased online through the PaperbackSwap.com.

Given the country's currently economic state, Pickering believes online swapping is here to stay. As families continue to look for ways to reduce spending, Pickering contends that Paperback Swap, SwapaCD, and SwapaDVD meet a vital need.

"People are looking for cheaper forms of entertainment for their families," Pickering says. "For only the cost of postage you can get a movie, book or music delivered right to your home."

Nancy Twigg is a freelance contributor to the News Sentinel.