A world in which Jackie Collins is the equal of Fyodor Dostoevsky
I figured out pretty quick in college that selling books back to the bookstore was for suckers–they gave about 15 cents on the dollar. And as much as I didn’t need most of them, I was loathe to lose so much money. Besides, I figured shelves full of books later in life would fool people into thinking I was smart. Then–BAM! I hit them with a hammer and steal their kidneys.
But what if I could turn those books that I didn’t care about into books that I did? Sure, I could buy books, but that’s expensive. Bookmooch has that solved. You list the books you have that you’re willing to part with, and you seek out books in other people’s collections that you’d like to have. There’s a point system (you get a tenth of a point for each book you list, one point for each book you send off, and each book someone sends you costs a point) and all it costs is shipping between you and the person who wants the book.
It’s so simple. I’ve listed 80 books (it’s easy–they use Amazon’s catalog for book data, so you just need to enter a list of ISBNs*), shipped out 4, and have 3 on the way. The great part is how cheap it actually is. Between buying the padded mailer at the post office and shipping it at the Media rate (a special rate that’s pretty much just for books), each book I ship out only costs me about $2.50. And each of those represents a book that I can pick out later that I actually want to own.
The site feels pretty new and there are definitely some rough edges to iron out, but it’s pretty straightforward and the selection is decent (although biased towards collections like mine, it seems; for obvious reasons recent bestsellers are harder to come by.)
Bookmooch is really a pretty neat concept: a democracy of books. Each book is worth another book. You could send out the paperback of Jeff Foxworthy Scratches Himself and Tells You About It and it would entitle you to request a nicely bound copy of The Complete Unabridged Proust/Weight Training Kit. It’s one of the best recent examples I’ve seen of harnessing the power of the Internet to create more efficient markets. Money doesn’t even enter into the equation–why should it? You have a book, someone else wants that book, and you’ll get another book in return for giving it to them. Brilliant.
*That’s the unique number that each book is assigned when it’s published. Clearly marked; way easier to type than the title.