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Press & Media » Houston Chronicle

A Book Trade Via The Mail

Houston Chronicle (Newspaper) - 6/19/2009 by Tara Dooley
Richard Pickering’s PaperBackSwap developed from his own experience as a book lover.

Before starting the online book exchange in 2005, Pickering traveled for a living and was constantly in airport bookstores picking up a new paperback for the flight.

As a result he had many gently used paperbacks and had dished out a lot of money.

‘Saving money’
An online swap, he figured, would connect readers with books for the price of postage and would save paperbacks from languishing unused on shelves or winding up in landfills.

“We believe in saving money,” Pickering said. “We also believe in recycling.”

PaperBackSwap has more than 160,000 active members and a roster of more than 200,000, Pickering said.

The site boasts more than 3.6 million books available for swapping — a number that grew from the few hundred of his own that started the business.

In any given week, Pickering says about 65,000 books are moving from owner to owner through PaperBackSwap.

In the past two years, Pickering also added SwapACD and SwapADVD to the lineup.

“We are able to satisfy the needs of a lot of different families,” he said.

The concept is pretty simple for both services. Readers list the books they are willing to share. When asked for a title on their list, they put that book in the mail.

In return, the click of a mouse delivers a literary treat from a stranger directly to the doorstep.

For 29-year-old Ginger Salazarescobar, the online swap has enabled her to feed her formidable book reading habit.

Sharing information
She’s a regular library user, well acquainted with the library waiting list. She hits the used bookstores now and again. She’s always happy to unwrap a book on her birthday.

But buying books just didn’t pay.

“For as much as I read, book stores were getting really pricey,” said Salazarescobar, a Houston legal clerk who figures she reads four or five books a week.

She’s not the only one who feeds the habit online. Pickering figures that the average family that really participates in PaperBackSwap can save about $300 a year, he said.

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