There’s nothing better than getting new books, as far as I’m concerned. Since our income has gone down recently, I’ve been trying to resist the lure of new books, and to spend time book trading online. It’s not free, but it’s pretty damn cheap, compared to buying new. For the most part, these sites work on a credit basis–you list books, and get credits to use to request books from other people. Some of them just work on a one-to-one basis–trade one book, get one book. Others assign different values to books based on their rarity or because they are hardbacks.
It’s not that easy to find high-demand books–I have broken down and bought a few of those–but for the most part, I can find almost anything I want to read on one of these sites, as evidenced by the fact that I have about 55 books sitting unread in my bedside book case.
These are the sites I use:
Bookins: This is the first site that I joined. I like the fact that you can just print postage when someone requests a book, so I don’t have to keep going to the post office. This is also the site that probably has the most high-brow books. One down side of it is that you can’t request a book that isn’t listed on the site–unlike many other sites, you can’t have a wish list, except for books that someone else has already listed.
Best for trading: literary fiction, some non-fiction & chick lit
Outside US? Yes No (see comment, below)
Bookmooch: I like the bookmooch community a lot. One of the nice things about this site is that some people are involved in community art journals. You can create a new journal and send it out into the world to get worked on, or you can just request other peoples’ and add to those. It’s a fairly active trading site, too. There are some charities that participate (Books Through Bars, etc.), and you can donate points to those charities, if you’re so inclined. I like their wishlist system, but I find it hard to just browse through the books available on the site. The downside of the wishlist is that it is based on a first-come, first-serve basis–so my inability to be online at 3 a.m. has cost me many chances to request popular books.
Best for trading: popular literary fiction, trade paperbacks of arty science fiction/cyberpunk books, art journals/community journaling project, kid lit
Outside US? Yes, but you have to agree to send internationally
Readers United: For some reason, this site seems to be full of people who don’t want to give me books. I’ve been turned down for unknown reasons by this site’s users more times than on all my other book trading sites combined.
Best for trading: graphic novels that are denied to me, some mysteries & science fiction, literary fiction
Outside of US? Yes
PaperBackSwap: Despite the name, it’s not just for paperbacks. This is a highly-trafficked site, and one of the things I really like about it is the ability to look up only the books listed that day. I like the fact that the wishlist can be set up to auto-request items, saving me the need to be online after midnight. The downside of this site seems to be their inventory. It’s heavy on romance novels and thrillers, and seems pretty light on serious fiction or serious non-fiction, for that matter.
Best for trading: lots of mysteries and romance novels, mass-market paper-backs, some good kid lit, self-help, odd non-fiction
Outside of US? No, and they refuse to trade with the incarcerated, as well.
FrugalReader: This site has a pretty good variety of items. While I don’t totally understand their wishlist system, it seems to be set up so that you get ‘in-line’ for a book. I’m hoping this might someday mean that I can get a copy of the absurdly hard-to-find Absurdistan.
Best for trading: a fair amount of literary fiction, and I’ve traded some quirky social justice books, some good kid lit
Outside of US? No (although it does include US territories, like Guam, and military addresses)
The last two times I’ve surfed over to Frugal Reader, their website has been down, and a “this domain available” page has been up, so I guess it’s no more (2/2010).
Swaptree: I like the fact that this one is set up by a mom, but I can’t totally understand how their trading system works. One nice feature (that I haven’t used yet) is the ability to trade books for other items–like cds, dvds, or games. The downside is that you can only trade if someone else wants something that you have–they may match you to two other users (i.e.–I trade item 1 to user A who trades item 2 to user B, who sends me item 3), but there are no credits or anything just for listing items. It also means that I’m eligible for trades I have absolutely no interest in–when I first signed up, all I could trade for was some Sweet Valley High books, and other equally treacly young adult fiction. I’ve just done one trade on this site so far, and it worked fine, but it doesn’t seem like the kinds of books I have to offer are very much in demand.
Best for trading: games, videos, mass-market paperbacks, mysteries, some kid lit
Outside of US? Not currently, though as of 8/2007 their site says they’re working on it.
Titletrader: This site has both a free and paid service–things like having a wishlist or saving searches for particular books or authors are reserved for the premium service, which I didn’t sign up for. I’ve only recently had some trades here–the good thing about it seems to be that the premium feature hasn’t taken off yet, so I’ve found a few books that are hotly traded on other sites that I’ve never been fast enough to get on bookmooch.
Best for trading: chick lit, literary fiction
Outside of US? Yes
What’s On My Bookshelf: I just joined this one, and am in the middle of my first trade I’ve done a couple of trades on this site. It doesn’t seem to have a ton of users, but the ones I’ve connected with shipped quickly. The one unfortunate thing about this site is that the only way books are categorized is by the user. Meaning that if someone lists Ibsen’s The Doll’s House as a children’s book, someone else is going to be sorely disappointed.
Best for trading: mysteries, young adult fiction, some non-fiction & lots of romances.
Outside US? Yes, if you opt to trade internationally–you can actually select which countries you will ship to, and which you won’t.
There is one other site that I’ve signed up for that I haven’t had any activity at yet, if I get a bite, I’ll review it too.
Finally, though it’s not actually set up as a book trading site, I’d be remiss not to mention bookcrossing, which is the first book sharing site that I ever joined. Basically you register your books–each book gets a unique number, which you need to write inside (or make a bookmark with it) and then when you trade them (or leave them for someone to find), the next person to get the book can get online and write about it. It’s a way of tracking your books when they leave your possession. It’s kind of nifty.
You can also see some of my library here on my Goodreads profile.