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Paperback Swap Novel Idea

Post-Tribune (Newspaper) - 5/28/2006 by Carolina Procter
Online book club allows members to share paperbacks for cost of postage

For Colleen McDonald, books are fun companions- diversions to keep her mind off a stressful reality.

The 35-year-old Crown Point woman suffers from lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, and spends a lot of time resting.

"A lot of times when I don't feel good, books keep me company," she said, adding that even before she got sick she loved to read. "I started reading when I was 3 years old, and I have not stopped."

McDonald is among thousands of book lovers across the country who get their reading fix from an online club called PaperbackSwap.com, which lets members trade books via mail.

McDonald joined a year ago and estimates she's read 50 books and shared 75 through the club.

"The people who thought of it are geniuses," she said. "I've gotten books on lupus, pet care books, children's books and others. It's one of the best sites I've come across."

To become a member, list nine or more books you're willing to give someone else.

If someone chooses one of your books, you pay the postage (usually $1.59) and mail it.

Every time you mail a book, you receive credit, which you can use to choose a book from someone else. The sender always pays postage on the receiver's book.

About 500,000 books are available at PaperbackSwap.com now, a number that's doubled since December, said Richard Pickering, who co-founded the club two years ago.

He said the book-swapping premise works, especially with paperbacks, because most people only read a book once and don't necessarily want to keep a softcover version. (Though the site's name references paperbacks, hardcovers are also allowed.)

"Unless it's a classic, they don't have a need to keep it," said Pickering, who lives in Duluth, Ga.

"A paperback is there for enjoyment. Once you're done with it, being able to pass it along to someone else is great. You feel good because you're sharing reading with other people who have the same passion."

If you order a book you want to keep, you can do so. There's no requirement to pass a book on to someone else. There's also no time limit to re-posting a book.

"I go to the library, but it's not the same because you have to return the books in a certain amount of time," McDonald said.

Aside from shipping costs, members don't pay any mandatory fees. The club offers extra services that cost to use; this is how the club makes money.

When members ship a book via the United States Postal Service, they can pay for delivery confirmation at a reduced rate of 42 cents rather than 60 cents. The postal service shares the revenue with the club.

The Box o'Books feature, which costs $8 per year, allows members to swap larger quantities of books directly with one another. Book Journal, which hasn't been launched yet, will let members share thoughts and notes on characters, plots and other aspects of books in their libraries.

"We try to establish opportunities to exchange ideas and perspectives,"

Pickering said. "There's a social side of it, as opposed to just getting a book. That's why it's a club."