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A Greener -- And Cheaper -- Way To Read Books (No Not The Kindl)

San Francisco Chronicle (Newspaper) - 7/29/2009 by Jeff Yeager
I'd be lying if I said I've never dreamed of writing a New York Times bestseller. My little book, The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches, has sold okay, at least well enough that the publisher has me writing another one. But in terms of total sales, mine has never even entered the same solar system as books on the NYT list.

Obviously, part of the reason for that is the fact that I write for and about cheapskates. Most of the folks who contact me to say that they liked my book eventually get around to admitting that they borrowed it from the library rather than bought a copy of their own. That's fine with me. I'm a big supporter of public libraries and, of course, libraries pay for the copies they loan out. Libraries are inherently green institutions, a perfect example of what being a Green Cheapskate is all about.

But then there are those readers who write to say that they loved my book so much they spent every lunch hour for the past two weeks standing in the back of Barnes & Noble reading the whole thing. Those are always the fans who conclude with, "PS - I can't wait to read your next book!" Ah, but for the economic realities of publishing.

Maybe I'm just trying to assuage my NYT list envy, but I had a touching e-mail from a reader last week that made me feel even better than if I'd landed a berth on the Times' prestigious roster. She wrote to tell me that my little book has occasionally had one of the longest waiting lists on the Website paperbackswap.com, a terrific Website where you post books you want to get rid of and send them off to folks who want them. You receive "credits" for the books you send to others, and then redeem your credits for books others are looking to giveaway. Books need to be in good condition, and you pay only for the postage on books you send out (usually about $2.50 per book).

There are lots of other book exchanges on the Web as well (some may charge membership and processing fees), including:

* bookmooch.com
* bookins.com
* swaptree.com
* titletrader.com
* campusbookswap.org
* novelaction.com

In the current economy -- with cash tighter than a drumhead -- maybe there should be a new New York Times bestseller list, one composed of those books with the longest waiting lists at the public library and on sites like paperbackswap.com. That would be a list of the favorites among readers who are smart enough to understand that there's a greener -- and cheaper -- way to read the books they want to read.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'd turn down a slot on the Times' current list if they come knocking.

Jeff Yeager is the author of the book The Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches. His Website is www.UltimateCheapskate.com.