This week’s tool helps writers get what they arguably need most (next to a pen and notebook): more books. I have a problem with books, and Friends of the Library 25-cent sales, and yard sales and used book stores. My problem is that I have too many of them. So clearly I need Paperbackswap.com the most.
In all seriousness, what this site (and others like it) does is let you trade books for points, which are then redeemed for more books. The books you swap for are yours–it’s not an online lending library; you swap for keeps.
For most books, it’s better than selling on Half.com or Amazon, because many paperbacks on those sites sell for a nickel or less. Once you’ve paid for shipping and given the company your commission, you’re in the hole. With PBS, you still pay shipping, but for your old book you get any other book available. The site eliminates condition ratings, too, which is a good and bad thing: you know that any book that’s not heavily marked up or damaged by water is worth something–but of course, you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. If you’re looking for a gift copy or a specific edition, you’re better off shelling out for a new book, anyway.
I’ve been a PBS member for a year or more (it’s probably closer to 18 months). They claim I have saved close to $90 since signing up, though I’m not sure how they arrive at that figure. (I believe it’s $4.50 used book price x number of books received minus shipping x number of books mailed..but I don’t know.) Anyway, I’m not really concerned about the money, other than that I know I’m giving my old books new life at a much more economical rate than selling them.
Now, some people will say that it’s important to support beloved authors by buying their stuff. I agree–but with PBS, at least you have a choice.