There’s a certain romanticism about displaying an impressive library of books that reflect the depth and diversity of your interests. I’m over it, though. Truth be told, books take up a lot of physical space and the vast majority of those books I’ll never find the time to re-read. So why not spread some joy and knowledge by getting books into the hands of those want them? And why not be more efficient with our printing presses and raw materials? I feel good about getting books directly into the hands of someone who wants them, preventing books from going into landfills, and reducing the need to print more dead trees.
For over a decade, I’ve belonged to several book swapping websites, which operate on the premise of give a book/get a book. My favorite, for a time, was swap.com. In their old incarnation, you could list the books you’re willing to part with and the books you’d like to receive, and they would match you for a direct 1:1 swap. Their secret sauce was they arranged for three-way swaps, which expanded the universe of potential direct swaps. But they’ve since pivoted away from books toward baby clothes and toys.
The other two sites I’ve played around with are BookMooch and Paperbackswap. Both of work on the basis of earning a credit by giving a book to someone who wants it, and “spending” a credit to have someone send a book you want to read. BookMooch was okay, but I could never find anything I wanted and there’s nothing you can do with excess credits. So Paperbackswap is now my go-to site.
Today, I posted four more books to Paperbackswap. Two are already on members’ wishlists, so I’ll be shipping those out once their new homes confirm they still want them. The other two will go on a shelf dedicated to books I’ve posted; hopefully someone will want them soon. But I also have a surplus of credits on Paperbackswap. So today, I also donated credits to the Paperbackswap donation program. This program provides schools in low-income and rural districts with the age-appropriate books they need, using donated credits. And that’s exactly where we should spread more joy and knowledge.