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Press & Media » San Antonio Express News

Read Well For Free (almost)

San Antonio Express News (Newspaper) - 6/16/2006 by Sarah Sabalos
Online swap site puts half a million paperbacks back in circulation, just for the price of postage.

As a casual paperback reader and serious hardback collector, Walter Best is usually surrounded by books. And during the last four months, Best, 45, has had 100 volumes shipped to his house for free.

Best is a member of, a book-trading Web site with a library of almost a half-million titles. Members put their used books on the site and pay the postage to ship them to other members. They browse for new (or gently read) ones, searching by author, title or genre, then request the ones they want to read- for free.

Richard Pickering- a frequent business traveler- created the site a year and a half ago, when he was drowning in paperbacks purchased in airports across America.

Paperbacks that didn't resell well on eBay or Amazon.

"I thought, ‘There's got to be a better way to do this,'" said the Atlanta-based real-estate investor. " What if we had a virtual library online, where people could swap one book for one book, free of charge?'"

His idea worked. Thousands of people (mostly women) come online to seek out and trade thousands of new books a week.

Romance and mystery are the most popular genres, but Krista Persing, a Columbia stay-at-home mother, finds plenty of titles to suit her nonromance, nonmystery bent. She's usually in the middle of one book relating to homeschooling, one on a Christian/biblical topic and something just for fun.

At first, Persing was skeptical of having to pay to send books but receiving them for free.

"Now, I realize this is actually one of the great perks of the program!" she said. "This way, you aren't sending money to someone and hoping they will actually send you the books you are asking for (unlike online auctions). I also like the idea that the books I'm sending out are books someone has requested and really wants to read."


List at least nine or more books in the system to become an active member and receive three free credits to get you started trading.

Browse the online list of books posted by club members and use your credits to order books.

Selected books are delivered to you.

When other members order books that you've listed, you mail them and pay the postage (usually $1.59).

You get one credit (good for one book) for every book you mail as soon as it is received.
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