Monday, March 22, 2010

Conservation of Books

I read a lot of books, and recently I've been trying to get as many as possible in electronic form, using my iPod Touch, Blackberry Storm2, and occasionally my PC (I have Kindle and Barnes & Noble reader apps on all three devices). Not only does this take up no physical space, but I can have a variety of books with me all the time, allowing me to read a bit while waiting for the dog to do what dogs do (bark at the neighbor's dog) or whatever.

But I still have shelves and boxes of physical books, loved and unloved, read and unread, old and not so old. What to do with them? Many of them I will keep in case I want to read them again (it sometimes happens) or for sentimental reasons. Too many actually. I've donated several boxes to the town library for book sales. I've even thrown away a few (things like ancient programming reference books). But recently I found another solution.

OK, it's actually not a solution, but it's a pleasant problem: a web site called PaperBack Swap. Basically it's a book trading site. First you sign up as a member (it's free). Then you list books you want to give away, and when someone requests one, you mail it to the other member (this costs about $2 to $3 for most books and requires a trip to the post office, though there are ways around this). When the other member receives your book, you get a credit with which you can request a book from the many listed by other members (there are over 4 million books listed). The site has many features that make this all pretty painless (book search, wish lists, labels, reminders, etc.).

But since you get 2 credits just for signing up and listing 10 books, it's not really a way to reduce the number of books I have in the house. But it finds good homes for books I don't need and serves my need for serendipity at very low cost.

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