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Web Site Of The Week:

ABC News (Website) - 9/21/2006 by Sean Carroll
ABC News : Web Site Of The Week: If you're like me, you've got hundreds upon hundreds of old paperbacks lying around. You know you'll never read them again; the only thing they're good for is annoying your spouse, providing an additional layer of insulation along the walls they're stacked against, and, of course, keeping the silverfish happy. Your friends don't want them, the used bookstores won't touch them, and you simply can't bear to throw them away (throwing away books is probably a crime—or ought to be). But short of the dread yard sale or trying to con the local thrift store into taking them, how can you get rid of them? The answer:

To get started with the service, you simply sign up and list the ISBN number of nine books that you're willing to part with. The site uses the ISBN number to create a listing complete with title, cover image, publication date, and so on. When another site member chooses a book you're offering, you get an automatic e-mail notification complete with printable mailing labels with postage calculated. Pack up the book, print the label, and ship off your books—it'll cost you just $1.59, via the USPS's slow media mail service for any book up to a pound.

For posting your nine books, you get three credits, and as soon as your recipient gets the book and registers the receipt with the service, you get a credit. You can spend credits on books of your own, on a one-for-one basis. Just search via book or author and click the request button to ask a user with the book you're looking for to send it to you. That's about it.

You rely on the other user to send the book, just as he relies on you to confirm receipt. The receiver is reasonably safe; anyone who doesn't send books doesn't get credits. Senders rely more on the goodwill of receivers. If you're not a trusting sender, the site has its own Quick Credit delivery confirmation service. For just 41 cents, the Post Office scans and tracks your book; when it's delivered, the system is automatically updated, and you get a credit. It's not a bad deal, and it's even cheaper than the Post Office's own delivery confirmation system.

Note there's no minimum condition guaranteed. If you're particularly finicky about the condition of your books (don't like them dog-eared, stinking of smoke, and so on) this might not be the way for you to go. And books are books, as far as the system's concerned. A brand-new $14.95 paperback trades even for a moldy old 25-center from before you were born. This isn't a club for those looking to make money; it's for people who love to read. One exception to the one-for-one rule: Audiobooks cost two credits. Also, although the site focuses on paperbacks, you can trade hardbacks, but you'll have to bring them in to the post office if they weigh more than a pound, and your shipping cost may be more than $1.59. Another caveat: You can't request a book to your wishlist unless it's in the PaperBackSwap database. There is, however, a wishlist feature.

The interface isn't particularly attractive, and there isn't much else to do here (there's a chat room and book rating system, but that's about it), but it's a relatively young site and it has an impressive selection of books— over 740,000 available in the system, with 25,000 being shipped every week, according to site co-founder Richard Pickering. And it's free—for the moment. The site may eventually charge a small annual membership fee (they're considering something in the $10 range, says Pickering). By that time other planned features—such as a book journal—may be online. Meanwhile, it's a great idea and a site that's cheap and easy to experiment with. If you've got nine books you can spare, it's worth a try.
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