Tuesday, May 17, 2011

BookMooch for swapping books

One of the random things that I have discovered in the past year is the awesomeness of swapping sites. There are sites out there to swap everything, from books, movies, and cds to crafts, clothing, and even houses! Every once in a while I join a new site, just to see how it works. I am now a member of at least 8 swapping sites - but I don't think I am addicted. :D

This week I joined a site called BookMooch. I saw on my LibraryThing profile that the site had a book that I was seeking that no other site had listed, so I was optimistic that there would be several good offerings.

At first view, their site is not as graphically advanced as many others, but it is functionality over beauty, right? It is straightforward and easy to navigate. The biggest starting challenge I had was finding the spot to bulk upload my wish list. There is one, it just takes a little digging.

I like the points system. Aside from giving you a point for each book you mail, like most sites do, they also give you .1 point for each book you list in the system. You can't just list them and then remove them though - the point leaves if the book does. They also understand the cost and effort involved for sending a book to another country, so if you choose to send international, you get 3 points for the book instead of just 1.

They have a unique ratio policy in place, which I find interesting, but in a good way. A user must keep at least a 2:1 ratio to request books. That is, for every 2 you request, you must send one. That sounds pretty fair to me. It keeps people from listing tons of really bad stuff that they know no one will request and then ordering a lot using the points from listing.

It is nice that you can see exactly where the book you request is coming from, and can choose from multiple offers. Though, it is sad when you see that the only "available" copy is from someone in another country that will not ship international.

The most disappointing thing I found about the site is that, once I got my wish list loaded, I could see exactly how little selection they actually have available. I loaded a 206 book wish list, including books from all sorts of varied genres and types, and of the 206, only 6 were available. There is no sort of queue either, so if someone does add one of your wish list books, they email a notification to everyone with it on their wish list and you have to hope to be the first one to snag it.

They mention on the site at some point that, of the books you list, about 80% of them will be requested almost immediately. This is very true. Because there is so little readily available to chose from, new titles being listed will be grabbed up quickly. This is good for the people who manage to get those books, and good for those who want to be rid of their collections fast, but can be tough for those who find themselves having to pay postage on 10-15 books at a time.

On the plus side, the requests do not expire. They stay around until you send the book to someone - making it unavailable - or until the requester cancels the request. So you can tell some of the people that there will be delayed shipping and ship a few at a time.

Overall, the site is not too bad. With some growth it could be better. I will probably not list anymore books until I spend at least a few of the credits I have amassed - including for the 7 books I mailed today. But I will definitely keep checking back, and will likely list more as time goes on.

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