Updated on 03.03.07

PaperBackSwap: An Effective Way To Save Money On Books

Trent Hamm

In the past, I’ve discussed a lot of methods for saving money on books, including maximizing your local library, book “swapping” using eBay, and leveraging the Borders Rewards program. Lately, though, I’ve been picking up a lot of books using PaperBackSwap for just a buck or two. Even better, I’m getting rid of a lot of the books I don’t read any more – and I’m doing it all without leaving the house.

What is PaperBackSwap? PaperBackSwap is a free online book exchange service. You sign up there and list nine books that you’re willing to send out in the mail to anyone (just list nine books you have that you probably won’t read again and you’d probably end up taking to a used book store or something eventually). Once you’ve listed nine books, the site gives you three credits.

What’s a “credit”? You spend a credit to have a book sent to you (remember, by listing nine books you’re willing to give away, you get three credits). When it arrives, you go on the site and indicate that the book has been received by you, and the person that sent it earns a credit (so they can then go get a book).

Similarly, whenever someone requests one of your listed books, you just ship it out and when they receive it, they go on the site and indicate they’ve received it, earning you a credit (which you can use to request another book).

To summarize:
1. You go to PaperBackSwap, sign up, and list nine books on there that you’d be willing to send out to people (basically, books of yours you won’t read any more).
2. You get three credits for listing those nine books.
3. You use a credit to request a book that’s listed on PaperBackSwap – it’s sent to you in the mail for free. So by listing those nine books, you can get three books in the mail for free.
4. If someone requests one of the books you have listed, you ship it out to the address that PaperBackSwap gives you. When they receive the book, you get a credit that you can use for another book.

When I signed up, I just listed nine junk books to get the credit, but once I got some good ones in the mail, read them, and wanted more, I found myself listing all of my books that I didn’t want to keep. Since then, I’ve had little trouble getting ahold of interesting stuff to read.

What’s the availability like? If you’re looking to get bestsellers, this probably isn’t the place to go, but if you’re like me, reading through a lot of classics and such, this is a fantastic place to pick up books. Since I joined about a month ago, I’ve picked up Rabbit, Run and Dutch (shipped free to my home) and sent out six books I didn’t want any more, which means that I still have a pile of credits left to get free books in the mail.

Basically, it’s an extremely cheap way to get books. I like to think of it as a giant, well-organized book swap meet, and I thought it might be of interest to the more frugal bibliophiles who read The Simple Dollar.

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  1. Anon says:

    bookmooch.com does the same thing, so if you can’t find a book you’re looking for you might want to try it.

  2. Ali says:

    I love this idea! I am going to go check it out. My husband and I are avid library-goers, but in our small town, the library is very small. I think my husband has nearly read everything they have in the sci-fi and how-to sections! This also reminded me of another exchange-type program we are involved in. I searched TSD and didn’t see that you’ve talked about it yet. It is called Freecycle. It is a program where you can post things to give away (not sell, but “recycle” to somebody else)and you can post things you’d like to find. For example, one lady nearby needed a child-size tuxedo for a wedding and didn’t want to go buy one for her son who would surely outgrow it before he ever used it again. So, I offered her my son’s tux and I didn’t have to throw it away (it was just collecting dust in the back of the closet) and she got a nice set of clothes for nothing. I understand she later passed it on to somebody else who needed it. You sign up online and they help you find your local Freecyle network. Google “Freecycle”.

  3. Stephanie says:

    Freecycle is great, I’m a member of my local network. I haven’t given or taken anything from it yet, but I love reading the daily digest of emails to see what people are putting up there.

    If you can stand reading books on your computer screen (some people can, and some people can’t), check out WOWIO.com. The books have ads in them, like magazine ads, but only about 6 ads per book – otherwise, the books are completely free. They started the site with books in the public domain, and used that based to expand out, and now they’re adding new books all the time. Yes, I come off sounding like a bit of a mouthpiece for them – but I truly enjoy their service.

  4. Serena says:

    I’ve been thinking about trying one of those sites… thanks for the post.
    As for the library – most will get books from others nearby if you have specific requests – my library even has a webpage where you can request books or renew.

  5. Deepa R says:

    Does anyone know of a similar service in India ? I know one recently launched one here, BuySellOldBooks.com , but they set up face-to-face meetings. A swap/sell by mail service is what I am looking for.

  6. Haji says:

    For international users who would like a credit based site there are two main ones I use.

    http://www.bookmooch.com, it give the sender an extra credit for sending outside their own country, while charging the requester 2 credits vs in the one charged for requesting within your own country.


    http://www.titletrader.com which not only has books,and various types of media but anything you can find on Amazon.com

  7. mark says:

    I prefer http://www.swaptree.com. Do more than books. You can trade cds, dvds and vide games.

  8. Robin says:

    Trent, I’ve been using paperbackswap.com for awhile now based on your recommendation, but I don’t think you got a credit for it. I just sent them an email so hopefully you will be getting it soon. Not sure if this is allowed in your *book fast* or not, but I hope it is.

  9. Tamara says:

    This sounds like a great idea, but with the cost to ship these books I am not sure it would be worth it for me. I think the library, or garage sales are more in my price range.

  10. Arthur Mantzouris says:

    I’m new to this but I think it’s great to be able to share all of the different information the way you all are doing. I wrote alot of the info: down and will be visiting the many sites I saw. You may even want to view a website that I have, its http://www.youravon.com/amantzouris, We do have many things on sale which won’t brake your pocketbook or wallet….Check it out, if you dare……….

  11. Linda says:

    I was pretty disappointed to learn that PaperBackSwap only works within the US- I was so excited to get rid of my old books!

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