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Word-swapping: Web Trading Site Alternative To Library

Standard-Examiner (Newspaper) - 6/16/2006 by Doan Nguyen
Tiffany Johnson, 34, of Ogden, said she spends more money on overdue fines at the library than she does trading books using PaperBackSwap.com.

The Web site lets avid readers recycle their books by trading them with other members within the United States, as well as Puerto Rico and Guam, through the mail.

"The library is limited in what it has on its shelves," Johnson said, and sometimes the books she looks for in the library are already checked out.

She started using the site after reading about it in a Woman's Day magazine a year ago and has been logging onto the site every day since then.

Johnson said she loves to read, and does it "tons," and the site is a good way to get used books.

She reads everything from mysteries to classics- and uses Amazon.com to purchase books if she finds good deals. However, that means buying the book and paying for shipping on top of the cost- making it more expensive than swapping.

Johnson likes using PaperBackSwap.com because she pays only for postage, making it a "way to get paperbacks for basically free."

Postage costs may vary, but Johnson said she spends around $1.59 for almost every book she mails out.

How it works

The site works like this:

To become an active club member, a person lists on the Web site nine or more books and is automatically given three free credit points to start trading books.

Browsing through the listings of titles posted by other members, the new member uses points to request books. One credit point is exchangeable for one book.

The sender pays the postage, but gets a point for each book she ships out. Thus, the more books a member mails, the more credits she receives.

The member receiving the book pays nothing.

"It's fun to get something new in the mail," said Vicki Orgill, 35, of Layton. She likes the club because she usually gets the books quickly, and there's no time limit on how long it takes to read a book, like there is at the library.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone who participates, and the site is so easy to use, very streamlined," said Angela Anderson, 34, of Layton, who found out about PaperBackSwap.com from an online friend.

Orgill went through her stash of paperbacks and posted a couple of books she thought would never be requested, but the books turned out to be on someone's wish list and she got two credits right off the bat, she said.

At times, Anderson said, it can be difficult to find recently published books at the site, and for those, she may have to go to the library or Half.com.

Users find books they want by typing key words or an ISBN number into the search bank or by browsing by categories, subcategories and/or authors. Hardcover books and books with audio are also traded.

The future of swap

The site has been up for two years but took off this spring.

"It has doubled in size in the last five months," said Richard Pickering, co-founder of the site. There are about a half a million book titles being traded now, he said.

There are book-swapping sites on the Internet similar to PaperBackSwap.com, such as TitleTrader.com and frugalreader.com. Some even offer DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes and video games.

Pickering said an affiliate site to PaperBackSwap.com, called SwapACD.com, is coming in the near future.

PaperBackSwap.com will eventually ask members to pay annual dues of $10 to $20 to operate the site. Pickering said the site won't charge membership fees anytime soon- those in charge are still working out the additional services they will offer.

"The beauty of it right now is that it is free, but I understand that running a Web site takes a lot of time and effort," said Anderson, who isn't sure if she would use the site if it started charging.

Orgill said she would stay with the site even if it charged an annual fee.

"You buy one or two new books and that is more than the $10-$20 fee," she said.

The site allows members to access the newest listings and also offers book reviews, chat rooms, discussion groups and a book journal feature, which members can use to share their thoughts on a book.

Said Orgill: "I love the library, don't get me wrong, butůsometimes I have things going on and I don't have to deal with a due date or overdue fine."

On trips away from home, she said, "I'd rather take a book with me that I own in case I lose it."