Save Money and Declutter with Online Book Swapping

We all know that the library is the primo destination for saving money on reading. But sometimes we don’t live near a library, the book we want is not available, or we’d like to linger over it for more than two to four weeks. What’s more, we can’t go to a library to unload a boxful of books that have been gathering dust on our shelves.

Online book swapping can solve all of these problems. And websites dedicated to exchanging books are proliferating these days, with names such as Paperback Swap, Book Mooch, Novel Action and Whats On My Bookshelf, to name just a few.

How Does It Work?

• Most swapping sites work on a point system where you earn points for donating books and you spend points for receiving books.

• Transactions are done via the U.S. postal system and members usually pay shipping costs.

• List books you want to trade by simply entering the book’s ISBN number.

• When someone requests a book you’ve listed, you mail it out. When you request a book, you get it delivered to your mailbox.

Pros and Cons of Book Exchange Websites

Sounds good, but what’s the catch?


• While postage costs can be low (especially if traders use the less expensive book rate), online swapping is still more expensive than using the library.

• A few users report getting damaged books that were not declared as such on the listing.

• Even though some sites provide you with labels, you have to package up books and get them mailed off.


• You can keep books as long as you like, or trade them back whenever you want.

• Even with shipping costs, you generally pay less than buying used books from places like or

• If you don’t like a book, you can simply trade it again.

• You can declutter while helping someone else and getting “new” books you want.

Book swapping is probably not going to score you the latest hit on short notice (unfortunately, the library usually comes up short there too). But if you enjoy reading, you have books to purge, and you like to save money, online book swapping is worth a try.

Which Site is Best for You?

For a review of four book exchange websites — Paperback Swap, Swap Tree, Book Mooch and Bookins — see this article by the Wall Street Journal, or this thorough comparison of Paperback Swap and Book Mooch at Gather.

Have you ever exchanged books online? How would you rate the experience?

Amy Suardi writes about saving money & making life better at Frugal Mama.

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