Saturday, March 29, 2008
Suffice it to say that there are way too many books in my house. "But there's no such thing!" some might say - including me. The reality, however, is that I am not going to read most of these again. There are even a few that I wish I hadn't read the first time around. There are so many of them that they won't all fit on the bookcase, or in the overflow trunk that I had set aside for this purpose. It was a hard choice, but I had to decide whether I preferred to remain the owner of all these titles, or have a more organized space to live in. I opted for the latter.
I remembered a few of my book club members talking about a site called paperback swap so I decided to check it out. It really is very cool. You post books you are willing to part with and others do the same. They don't have to be paperbacks; they even have audiobooks. When somebody wants a book of mine, they request it, and I mail it to them. The website even creates a wrapper with the other person's address already on it to be used in mailing the book. I get a credit for each book I mail that I can then use to request a new (to me) book.
There are a lot of things I like about this idea. You're reusing a book that somebody else will probably never read again, and can then pass it on again when you're done with it, and in exchange get another brand new (to you) one. If you don't want to part with it, that's okay too, there is nothing that says you have to re-post the book when you are done. The only thing you pay is postage to send your used books (usually between $2 and $3 US Media Mail).
I'm not thrilled about the wrapper that needs to get printed and the ink that gets used as well, but I guess this is where I remind myself to recycle my toner cartridges. Either way, I can't imagine that the toner, two sheets of paper, and tape that I use is more resources than what it takes to get a book from Amazon to me. Especially since I live less than a mile from the post office, so I usually walk there. Not to mention that by not buying a new book, I don't need somebody to cut down more trees to make more paper to print the thing on. Making paper, incidentally, also requires the use of enormous amounts of water. There is a lot of good information about the environmental and social impact of the publishing industry at the Green Press Intiative site.
Also, it's way cheaper than buying new titles. One of the features of the website is that it tracks your savings (based on average cost of a used book, postage you've spent mailing items to other members, gas prices, distance from post office, etc.) It estimates that I've saved over $80 in the month that I've joined.
There is one drawback to paperback swap, which is that for some newer titles, there is a very long wait. The have a waiting list, and it's first come first serve, but right now I am 795 of 853 in line for Khaled Hosseini's latest book, A Thousand Splendid Suns. Assuming I want to read the book in the next decade, I probably will find another source for this particular title. In fairness though, there are over 2,000,000 very good titles posted at the moment. Another very cool site for used books online is Biblio. They are a marketplace for used books, but they also do a lot of cool things, including building libraries in places that probably wouldn't have them otherwise, and investing in wind power to offset their carbon footprint.
Of course, there is always the library too. I'm not really a library person myself; they never have the title I want. You can do the recall thing, but it feels rude to tell somebody else to hurry up and finish the book just because I want it. Then I feel like I'm on a deadline too to hurry up and finish.
A final thought: since I am not actually buying anything, I can swap as many books as I want without breaking my rule number one! Hooray!