We recently featured a round-up of book swapping sites (sites where you can get rid of old books in exchange for new-old books from other users). Bookmooch was the first one I encountered, and the one that I’ve been using for years. If Bookmooch is the swap site that you decide to use, here are a few tips taken from my EXTENSIVE VAULT OF WISDOM. Or something.
1. Media mail, folks. If you’re like me and have no practical knowledge of how much it costs to ship anything, you’ll be shocked when you go to the post office to mail your first mooch and end up paying $5 to ship a book a few states over. Don’t do that. Mail the books media mail at the post office (if you’re in the U.S. and shipping domestically). It’s slower, but it’s also super cheap. In the cases of light paperbacks, first class might be cheaper, so make sure you ask if that’s what you’re shipping.
2. Don’t spend all your dollars on cushioned mailers. One of the main points of using a service like Bookmooch is saving money. Again, since I didn’t know diddly about shipping I went to the store and bought a bunch of mailers when I first joined. Instead, wrap the bags in plastic shopping bags to waterproof them and then wrap them again in cut-up brown paper shopping bags or butcher paper (as if you were wrapping a present). Secure them with good packaging tape. You can also reuse mailers other moochers send you- use a marker to mark out the barcodes from previous shippings, or tape an index card over the old address.
3. Check the user’s profile before you mooch from them. Be on the lookout for users who haven’t logged in in months, who reject mooches for silly reasons (“I can’t find it,” etc.,) or who have a lot of negative feedback. Don’t automatically discount new users, but look for signs that they don’t know what they’re doing. If tons of really desirable best-sellers are added to their inventory, it’s a good sign that their mixing up the wishlist with the inventory feature. Also, check a user’s inventory when you’re mooching from them- you’ll often find other books on their list that you want that probably weren’t on your wishlist.
4. Be honest about your shipping times. If you’re on a tight budget or a tight schedule and can’t make it to the post office but once a month or less often, make a note of that in your profile and send a note to that effect when you accept mooches. The other users then know to be patient, which decreases the number of mooches cancelled out of frustration.
5. Check your wishlist on the daily. Bookmooch will eventually e-mail you when a book on your wishlist becomes available, but they also email everyone else who has that book on their wishlist. Whoever gets to it first, wins. By checking your wishlist daily, you can get books that were just added to the inventory before BM even sends out the e-mail.
6. Don’t list your individual books on more than one swap site, at least not when you’re a beginner. Some users do this in order to maximize their points across the internet, with the plans of removing the volumes from the other site’s inventory once it’s requested somewhere. In my experience, newbies tend to forget to delete the requested book from their Bookmooch inventory, and then they end up rejecting the mooch because they already sent it to some user on PaperBackSwap (which, according to Bookmooch’s TOS, is not a valid reason for rejecting a mooch).
Do the other Bookmooch users out there have any other tips for new users? Leave them below!