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Are You Buried In Books?: Online Services Let You Swap Them

Dominion Post (Newspaper) - 6/4/2006 by
Dominion Post : Are You Buried In Books?: Online Services Let You Swap Them www.bookswap.com www.titletrader.com or search "book swap."

Maggie Abercrombie didn't know what to do. On the verge of moving into her first house, her parents and grandparents decided they needed to clean out theirs.

So much for storage.

Abercrombie found herself the not-so-proud owner of a lot of books.

"Some I had two or three copies of," she said.

"I wondered, what if there was a way to get rid of these online?" she said.

She sought help from her brother, who maintains a number of online sites.

"He did all the programming and I do the customer service," she said.

The result of that collaboration is Title Trader (www.titletrader.com), an online book swapping service, and it's the answer to Abercrombie's problems.

Well, sort of.

The site allows users to swap their books. No fee is charged, you just logon and list the books you want to swap -- swap being the operative term.

As Abercrombie points out, "Now I have different books."

And Title Trader's not the only online site that can help you trade for books you haven't read. Two years ago, Richard Pickering and Robert Swarthout started PaperBackSwap.com. Pickering was getting buried in high-priced airport books and needed an alternative. Richard's wife Lynn, who handles media inquiries for the site, said they started small, but "it took off like hotcakes."

"The word addiction comes up a lot and members are on the site for hours at a time," she said.

"It's more of a community than just a Web site. People make up profiles and nicknames and get to know one another."

PaperBackSwap.com has more than 500,000 books and "there are a lot of people who have older, harder to find books," Lynn Pickering said.

"You'd have to search the shelves of used book stores to find them. Or you can sit there with your cup of coffee in your pajamas and do it online."

More than books

While PaperBackSwap sticks to books, Title Trader also offers games, DVDs, VHS tapes, CDs and magazines.

Myann Witkop, the mother of three from Macomb Township, Mich., said Title Trader has been a positive experience for her.

"The best thing, besides being free, is I can recycle the things around my house and swap for something that's new to us."

With small children, swapping DVDs is a blessing, she said. "I especially love that I can mail right from my home -- no more running to the post office, book stores, or video stores. And even better, no late fees!"

Amee Barnett of Fairmont said she found Paper-BackSwap two months ago and has visited the site daily since.

"I've mailed 39 books so far," she said, "and received 32. What I really like about it is that I'm able to give books I have lying around that I don't want anymore to someone I know does want them, rather than throwing them away or donating them somewhere where they still might get thrown away."

Diane Williams of Morgantown also uses Paper-BackSwap. "I have saved a lot of money and tried books that I would not have if I had to pay full price," she said. "My daughter and husband have also used the site and enjoyed it."

Title Trader is a treat for Kristi Pyeatt of Tulsa, Okla. "There is so much variety on the site," she said. "If you can't find something, you put it on your wishlist and maybe someone else can help you find it.

"Our whole family reads a lot and every time I had a garage sale, no one would buy any books. Most of my friends don't read, and I didn't want to throw good books away.

"I decided I would go to Google and see if there were any type of book trading sites," Pyeatt said. "Title Trader looked like a good one to try, so I did. I have traded over 600 of my books, CDs, etc., and gotten almost that many."

"I have been able to get lots of things for my friends and family," she said.

"I enjoy giving them surprises and this is a small way to do that."

But it's not always perfect.

"The only downside to Title Trader that I have had is when I get a lot of requests all at once and payday isn't for a few days yet."

How it works

The only cost involved is shipping, which the sender pays.

Both sites ask you to list the items you have to swap. PaperBackSwap asks for at least nine books and immediately issues three credits, so you can shop at once.

Title Trader takes your list, but you don't get a credit until someone requests something from your list and you ship it.

As your books or other items are chosen, you send them directly to the person requesting them. No money changes hands.

Many traders use media mail, which doesn't guarantee a quick turnaround time, but Williams said it's "usually not much longer than a week" till she gets a book she selected.