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Press & Media » Five Magazine

No Due Dates

Five Magazine (Magazine) - 11/11/2006 by Miriam Madrid
Too many paperbacks lay on dark, lonesome shelves, never to be re-read. They don't get the respect of their hardback cousins, but the words between the covers are the same. Blow off the dust and let give new life to your neglected volumes by making them available, free of charge, to any reader who wants them.

After many business travels and last minute airport book purchases, PaperBackSwap co-founder Richard Pickering accumulated a large collection of books for which he no longer had space or need. First he attempted to sell them on eBay, but the process was too complicated and time consuming. He went to
local second-hand bookstores, but they paid pennies on the dollar and charged too much.

Many of Paperbackswap's members share the feeling. "I hate taking my books to used book stores. They pay nothing, yet want a mint for what you buy. I like knowing a book that I've paid for or swapped is going to someone who'll enjoy it," says Pamela, a member from Cimarron, New Mexico.

Many people believe books deserve a better-read future, but Pickering and co-founder Robert Swarthout did something about it.

Developed almost a year and a half ago, Paperbackswap now has members from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Guam. As members continue to join, the amount of book titles available has exploded.

The site's 100,000-plus-volume library ranges from the highest selling book in the world, The Bible, to sublime collections of The Far Side.

The website works with a simple credit system. After posting nine books they can be high or lowbrow you automatically receive three credits. To continue acquiring credits, you send books to other members who request them. Although you pay a small postage fee, the favor is returned when you request a book. A printable mailer makes putting a book in the post a snap. It's a give and get atmosphere the more books you send, the more you are able to request.

You can browse books by title or you can explore genres and chose books by members and their locations.

"The people who run are extremely helpful and are always trying to better the site and make it run more smoothly," says Amanda from Boulder, Colorado. Always looking to better themselves, there's a link to make donations to the rebuilding of the New Orleans Public Library and SwapaCD does for music what PaperBackSwap does for literature.

An interesting feature lets you see where you've sent books and from where you've received them. The site also includes a live chat forum where the founders occasionally log on to answer any questions their members have. The site hides nothing and even has a link to its fine print. But you won't find any bad news, gimmicks or gotchas.

These aren't books you would find at a rare book dealer, but whether it's Huck Finn or a Harlequin Romance, once it arrives at your door, it's yours to keep, pass on or even put on a dusty shelf. But why would you do that?
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