I've been searching my memory, trying to remember how I originally heard of The Paperback Swap Club. I'm fairly certain it was my husband who heard about it on NPR and told me about it, since he knows I'm crazy about the books and such. It's a online club where you register books that you own that you no longer want, and request books that you wish you had. If someone requests your book, you ship it to them via media mail, which is pretty cheap. If you find a book you want, you request it and whoever listed it sends it to you for free. There's no cost for membership and you don't pay anything to get a book. You just promise to send a book to someone if they want it.
To start off, I listed 10 books I had that I didn't want any more. I'm more of a borrower than an owner of books, but I did have some that I had collected over the years that didn't merit keeping forever. As soon as I listed the books, half of them were requested within two days. I was stunned. People wanted my garbage? Really? As soon as I shipped the books, I received credits in my account that would get me some books for free. I used those credits to get a copy of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, a Robert Jordan book that my husband had been hinting about and the three Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea books by L.M. Montgomery. They were books I had always wanted and figured that this was a great way to get them. The point of the club is that as soon as you get your requested book, you read it and re-list it. The paperbacks are being swapped all over the country and nobody's house gets cluttered up. But I was looking for keepers.
The prize of all the books I received was a book I had loved as a child and had never been able to find as an adult. In my searches for it, I had discovered that it was a rare book, hard to find and expensive to purchase when I did happen to find a copy. The mass marketed paperback in used form ran about $50. The hardback version I had read over and over again growing up was over $100. Someone on Paperback Swap had listed the paperback version and I did a jig of glee when it arrived at my door. I put the hardback version on my wish list and months later, I got a notice that it was on its way. A first edition hardcover of The Maze in the Heart of the Castle by Dorothy Gilman was now mine and I paid nothing for it.
I eventually swapped out all my books for ones I wanted for my permanent collection, realizing this meant I had less books to re-list and earn more credits, but I didn't care. The books I had found were like gems to me and there was no way I'd send them on their way. I know the purpose of the website was for different intentions, but I'm perfectly happy with how things worked out. Last week, I cleaned out some cupboards and found some cookbooks I never use. I've already shipped off two of them and my next step is to do some shopping on Paperbackswap.com and see what treasures are waiting for me.