The Mermaid's Tale

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Swap used books -- go green and save money


save money by swapping books
Why swap books? Books -- even eBooks -- are not cheap to purchase. It gets expensive fast when an avid reader goes book shopping. The last several books that I have bought were over $15 each -- not cheap. What is worse is that most of them will be collecting dust on the shelf until they get read again, if ever.

If you have books that you no longer want, swap your books for new to you books from others. It's the ultimate in recycling by reducing your paper waste. Plus, it saves money by swapping unwanted books with others.

Try out one of the sites below to get started trading books around the world. Book swap sites generally run a point or credit system where the sender pays shipping for each book sent. Their trade partner will then get to keep the book or trade it on when they have finished with it. Some variances of course exist on different sites, so please read carefully before you sign up.

Why swap books?

Book swapping is a giant book-centric thrift store. There are millions of used and otherwise secondhand books there for no more than the price of postage. If you only like brand new books, this may not be a good thing, but for those of us who are more frugal, the volume of book options is a book lover's paradise. If you like the book you receive, you can keep it. If you don't like it after reading it, offer it up to another interested reader.

How to swap books

  1. Declutter your home library for those books that you no longer want.
  2. Recycle any books in poor condition.
  3. Join a book swapping site.
  4. List your books.
  5. Send them off to interested parties. Depending on the site, you may or may not be the one paying for postage.
  6. In return, request the books you desire from others.

Note: Dog-eared books with broken spines and missing pages are not accepted.

The only real inconvenience in book swapping is the wait for a book to arrive.

Tips for swapping books

Book swap sites

save money by swapping books


No longer just paperback books, either! This is a USA book swap site, free to join with no membership fees. You pay the postage for any books you send out to swap, and in turn receive credits on the site which you can use toward your next book swap. Every member gets two free credits upon joining, one credit for every (domestic-only) book swap. One nice feature is the ability to print postage directly from the site -- which will also earn credits for you.

Join PaperbackSwap today!
  save money by swapping books


BookMooch works much the same way as does PaperbackSwap except for the site having an international focus. You get three credits for every international book swap, effectively three new to you books for every book you swap out. Swaps can be conducted in any language supported by Book Mooch, English among others. You will also receive 1/10th of a credit for every book you list to swap -- a new swap for every ten books listed.

Join BookMooch today!

Selling used books

Remember when Amazon just sold books? Yeah, those were the days ....

If you wax nostalgic about finally finding a secondhand book you have been looking for, consider selling your discards then using the proceeds to restock your personal library if you can't swap them. Books are an easy item to pack and ship around the world, provided you can find a title a buyer might want. In the end it's almost a swap if you can manage to break even on costs.

Some great places to buy and sell used books online include:

How to pack and ship a book

Once you are swapping and/or selling books, you will need to ship the books out. That means packing them properly prior to shipping. There is a right way and a wrong way, so it's best to learn how to do it before you need to do it.

  1. Measure your book's dimensions. You will need packaging that size plus at least a 2 to 3 inch margin around it. That means for a narrow (1 inch of narrow) book, securing the book into a cardboard sleeve and placing it into a rigid cardboard mailer or padded envelope will suffice. For a wider book, you will need a box. In this case, wrap the book securely in bubble wrap, then use enough padding (air pillows, foam peanuts, etc) to secure the book in place so it doesn't shift in transit. Shake the packaging -- if you hear the book moving, add more padding.
  2. Secure the packaging with tape. Even a padded mailer needs tape. Don't trust the sticky flap to hold against shipping.
  3. Address the packaging. Don't write the address directly on the packing. Make an address label, even if it's just a piece of paper. Tape over the label to prevent water damage; the label must be readable.
  4. Determine the shipping method. An inexpensive secondhand book can be shipped Media Mail or Book Rate. Rare, expensive, or antiquarian books should always go by a safer method -- Priority at minimum. If you are shipping those type of books, offer shipping options.
  5. Mail the book. Once you know the shipping method, get it on its way as soon as possible.