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Dear Members,

Little-known fact about August: it is a thief!  The months used to alternate between 30 and 31 days all through the calendar, but when the Romans decided to give Caesar Augustus a month, they didn't want to annoy him (= they did not want to be beheaded) by giving him a shorter month than Julius Caesar's month that fell before his.  So, poor February shuffled up and sacrificed a day to prevent an Imperial Tantrum.   And September had a day wrested away from her too, so there would not be four "long" months in a row.    The Romans were all about symmetry.  And um, not getting beheaded.

In modern times, August is the Dog Days of Summer, the last gasp before Back-to-School.  It boasts National Wiggle-Your-Toes Day and National Blame-Someone-Else Day and National Book Lovers' Day!  Not to mention Sneak-Some-Zucchini-Onto-Your-Neighbor's-Porch Night, which is always a rollicking good time.

At PaperBackSwap, we like the dictionary definition of August: inspiring awe and admiration; majestic.  In keeping with that, we are happy to roll out some interface changes, some brand new features, and some upgrades to existing features on the site.  We think they're pretty awe-inspiring, and we hope you like them too.  We also did a lot of "behind-the-scenes" work on the site to make it work better and faster and be more pleasing to the eye.  Check out the Book Details page (for any book) for one example of the interface changes--no more scrolling to get to the book description! You can expect the features described below to "go live" this week.

Have a great month, everyone, and don't trip over the zucchini!


Richard and
The PaperBackSwap Team


You can expect the following changes (and more!) to be implemented the week of August 11th.  To read about all of the items below, you can go to the Help Center and read the items under What's New on the left side of the Browse Help Docs page.

Member Homepage.  New feature.  This is the page you will see now if you click Home when you are logged into the site.  It has all kinds of nifty stuff on it, including recently-posted AVAILABLE books in the genres you are interested in, recently-posted AVAILABLE books in all genres, Recent Book Reviews, and the New Member Spotlight.   When you first go to the Member Homepage you will need to choose your favorite genres (you can edit these at any time!) to personalize the books displayed at the top of your Member Homepage.  The most recently-written Review will also appear on the Homepage (this will change frequently), and the New Member Spotlight will showcase  recently-joined members who have posted books.  So, for all those members who never click Home because it's always shown the same old stuff...you can go home again!  Read more about the Member Homepage here.

Update to the Tags feature.   Upgraded feature. When we created the Book Tags feature, we let members tag any way they liked--unfortunately, this led to issues with confusing, redundant and even some offensive tags.   This great feature is diminished by the misuse of it.  Have you ever been offended or annoyed or confused by a tag?  Well, now you will have the power!  You will be able to report tags as inappropriate by clicking the R button on any of them that you see. If enough members think a tag is inappropriate, it will be removed from that book.  You will also have the My Tags list (under My Lists) which will show you other members who are using the same Tags you are, and My Tag Cloud, which will show all of your own tags in a visual layout.  Tags will not be searchable until most of the inappropriate/confusing tags have been eliminated by the membership.  Read more about the Book Tags upgrade here. Read more about Tag Clouds here.

Book Browser.  New feature. This new page under Search at the top of the site lets you do a kind of advanced search with a more user-friendly layout.  And there are new options: one example is the sort-by-star-rating, which will display your search results with the most-highly rated books at the top of the list.  The star rating system has been an underutilized feature on the site, so this sort will become much more powerful as members "star" their books.  (So if you have a great book on your shelf but no one knows how great it is, rate it!  If you rate it, they will come.... Apply star ratings to every book you have read.)   Read more about the Book Browser here.

Reach for the Stars.  Upgraded feature. The first time you go to your Books I've Read list after the site changes go into effect, you will see the BIR conversion page which will ask you to star-rate every book there, before you can access the list itself.  If you have been using that list a lot, you may have a lot of clicking to do!  Think of it as public service, for the good of the club.  Star ratings really help other members by giving them an at-a-glance notion of whether they will like a book.  The more people who contribute stars to a book's rating, the more helpful/representative it is.  Star ratings also contribute to the Similarity Index (read below) and make it a lot more powerful.  So get a-clicking!  Read more about the Books I've Read List Conversion Page here.

Separated at Birth?  New feature. You can now see how similar you are to your Friends, with the new Similarity Index!  When you go to your Friends page you will see a notation beside every Friend that says Similarity: xx%.   Your similarity is based largely on whether or not you and that Friend like the same books, and the Index accuracy will depend on whether or not you and your Friends have star-rated your books and selected your favorite genres on your Member Homepage.  If you want to boost the accuracy of your Similarity Index, apply star ratings to books.  If your Friends also do this, you will see your similarity indices adjust.  We have a lot of fun new features in mind, based on this index...and every book you rate gets us closer to being able to tackle those projects!  Read more about the Similarity Index here.

Renewed Review page.   Upgraded feature.  The Review page interface has been spiffed up, so when you choose to review a book you can Tag it at the same time, and you will now be able to apply a star rating right from the Review page (in fact that will be required)!  Recent reviews will be spotlighted on the Member Homepage now.  

Push a Book.  New feature. You can now suggest a book to a Friend that she or he might like to read. The Suggest option is available from the dropdown menu under More Options on the Book Details page.   You can see all the books that have been suggested to you in a new My Lists item in the menu under My Account; you can order from there (this will order from the suggester, if the book is on the suggester's bookshelf when you click the Order this Book button on the suggestion), and you can also click "Not Interested" to remove any item from the list.  Check it out!  Read more about the Suggest a Book feature here.

PBS Store News:

We have a new pattern of bookcovers!  A little touch of spring in the depths of summer...

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We also have several new items "in the pipeline" to add to the Store when they arrive...magnetic PaperBackSwap "bumper stickers" (we are having these made), and more.  So watch the Kiosk for new arrivals!

PBS Local Chapter News:

New Local Chapter Leaders:

If you want to be a Local Chapter Leader for PBS, you just need to have a PBS NIckname, a viewable public profile, and some organizational skills...check the Local Chapter Leaders Forum List of Official Chapters to see if your area already has a local Chapter.  If not, and you want to do this, just contact us.  There are no formal guidelines for being a Chapter Leader.  All of the information is in the Local Chapter Leader Discussion Forum topic.


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Liese S. (bookaddict)

Many members expressed their appreciation to Liese for her efforts in compiling many of Lester (ThreeCats)'s forum posts into a topic for all of our members to enjoy!  Lester's words are truly inspirational and he will be missed terribly in the club.   We are lucky that Lester shared so much with us, and we know that it was a lot of work to organize the topic.  It is a wonderful tribute to Lester--who was MoM himself in May--and it will keep him with us.

If you haven't seen the topic, it is "stickied" at the top of the Club Members' Thoughts Discussion Forum here

Liese, thanks so much for doing this!

You are our Member of the Month for August. Congratulations! 


If you have any nominations for Member of the Month, submit them to us here.  Your nomination will not "expire"--anyone you nominate will have a chance at getting Member of the Month if enough nominations accumulate over time. Each month the person who has the most votes accumulated when the Newsletter goes to press gets to be Member of the Month and gets a newsletter mention and a nifty MoM icon to wear on profile and forum posts with pride.  So go for it! Tell us who's helped you in the Forums, who's been a great swapper, who in your opinion is a credit to PBS.  We are keeping a list of all the nominated members.  Who knows--one of them might be YOU!


Dear Librarian--A couple of months ago, I printed a wrapper to send a book and after I did that the SAME member ordered another book from me.  I didn't realize that the second request was from the same person so I printed the second wrapper and ended up with two wrappers with the same address, which was really annoying because I used DC so I paid 27 cents twice and only used one of the wrappers!  I have been brooding about this incident ever since.  Can't this be avoided somehow?  --Irritated in Iowa

Dear Wa,

Well, we fixed that!  And that is why it hasn't happened to you lately.  We knew this was bothersome, so now the system will combine requests that are going to the same address, all behind-the-scenes and crafty-like.  If you have already accepted a request and printed the wrapper, and the member adds a book to the request, no problem!  The book request will "reset" itself so that you will need to print another wrapper--it will NOT charge you again for DC if you printed with DC--in order to assign that added book to the shipment and adjust the weight estimate for the shipment so the proper recommended postage/postal class  will print out .  (There is also an option to send the books separately if you already ran out and mailed the first one before the second request came in.)  The only time that requests cannot be combined if the same member adds a book to the order is if you have printed already with postage.  Because the weight of the shipment may change significantly when books are added, we cannot guarantee that the first wrapper printed with postage will have enough postage on it to mail the whole shipment with the additional book(s) in it.  If the additional weight of the added book(s) doesn't change the postage needed or the postal class, you can still use the printed wrapper to mail the books all together, of course; but the requests will be displayed separately (not as a bulk request) on your My Account page. In this case, of course, you would need to weigh your shipment with all the books in it and check the Postal Rates (available from the Need Help? tab on the upper right of your My Account main page) to see if the added books would require more postage.

The "combining-requests" feature took a huge amount of programming, but it went into effect so quietly a month or so ago that most people didn't even notice.  We hope this makes everyone's swapping easier!  If you are the requestor, keep in mind that it is ideal to add additional books to the order (using the Order More From Member button on the request, or during the process of the initial request) as soon as possible, before the sender accepts your request. 

Dear Librarian--Color me frustrated.  WHY has my request for a book passed from one sender to another without a response?  I saw on my Reminder List before I ordered it that this book had many available copies. WHY am I sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for someone to respond?   You should punish these inconsiderate jerks! --Aggravated in Akron

Dear Aggie,

We are so sorry you have had to wait for someone to respond to your request! No, no, these are not necessarily inconsiderate jerks.  They could be members who had an unexpected absence due to an emergency....they could even be in the hospital themselves....they could also be members who have abandoned their accounts and the system hasn't detected their inactivity and shut the accounts down yet.  But most commonly these are otherwise excellent swappers who went on vacation without using the Vacation Hold.  Yes, Aggie, this horror DOES happen, and the result really IS inconsiderate to other members, even though the perpetrator may not be an inconsiderate person normally.

Members who ignore or decline too many requests will have their accounts suspended automatically and will have to contact us and pinky-swear that they will use the Vacation Hold appropriately in the future, in order to resume membership.  The suspensions aren't really punitive but practical: we want to limit the occurrence of this very frustrating situation for requestors!  Too many incidents in an account may cause permanent account termination, of course.   We know this doesn't help you in this situation, Aggie, but the members who are "ignoring" you may be great swappers who just didn't think to use the Hold when they went away, and the request that is being ignored now may be the one to trigger account suspension for that member.   We hope your request reaches an active member soon.

The moral of this story: Don't be one of those careless members--read about the Vacation Hold in the Help Center, and use it whenever you need it (whenever you will be unable to send books, not just when you are going away from home).  You'll be glad you took the few seconds to do this--and so will all the members who don't have to wait for the request submitted to you to "time out" in order to get the book from someone else!  


  •  Your delight and surprise at the site changes...your joy and amazement when you first lay eyes on your Member Homepage...your careful perusal of the Help Center to explain anything that isn't absolutely clear to you...your obsession with clicking the arrows on the sliding displays of books on the Member Homepage...your frantic clicking to order all the available books you didn't even know about that you simply have to have...your increased overall Happiness Quotient at the imminent burgeoning of your TBR pile...
  • See you on the other side, in the Brave New World of PBS (cue "Theme to 2001: A Space Oddyssey" here...leave out the monkey noises).
  • You can make monkey noises if you want.  :)

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