Friday, October 19, 2007

Anti-packrat behavior

I have never denied that I am a packrat of the first order. My house, garage, and areas adjacent are stacked with cardboard boxes that might become useful again someday (if they weren't biodegrading), leftover pasteboard and screws from do-it-yourself furniture kits, toys and tools for which key parts (like the battery charger) are lost, and perhaps worst of all, books and DVDs and CDs that we don't want to keep but can't bear to just toss. Surely there is a special circle in hell reserved for those who put books in the garbage.

Enter BookMooch. Similar to but more comprehensive than the venerable PaperBack Swap, this site gives you points for shipping books to other members ("moochers") that can be redeemed one-for-one for a book you want someone to ship to you.

Now the reason this works better for me than PaperBack Swap is that I don't really have a lot of paperbacks. We get review copies in hardback, and while there are lots of those that meant enough to me to earn a place on my shelf, there are plenty that I'll just never use or didn't love.

I signed up yesterday, and got started today with the stack of review copies that I've had towering over my desk at work (I tend to bring books to the office to complete my reviews, then just leave them there). You earn 1/10 of a point just for entering a book into your inventory. If someone requests it and you agree to send it, one of their points is transferred to you -- a point you can turn around and give to another member who's got a book you want. International shipping costs/pays two points, but you don't have to make your inventory available internationally. If you do, chances are better you'll get rid of some stuff, but at the price of shipping that costs quite a bit more than twice the domestic postal rates (for only twice the purchasing power added to your account).

There's a whole eBay-like social networking system built in -- feedback and stats for members that show how often they give and receive books and how often something goes wrong. Some serious BookMoochers maintain topic-indexed lists of their inventory on their own websites and proudly display their feedback rating in their e-mail signatures.

Of course, the downside to all of this is that you have to pack the books up and get them to the post office. As long as I can maintain a supply of padded envelopes here at home and at work, I should be able to ship them on my way to and from the office, since there's a post office inside the Student Center on campus. (And since most of the books we get for review are shipped in padded envelopes, there can be some recycling going on there ... although saving padded envelopes is a bit packratty, which could conceivably cause backsliding.)

I entered maybe 15 books this morning, and this afternoon I sent out 6. In return I claimed 3 from other people's lists. If you don't want to take as much as you give, you can donate your points to charity. I look forward to filling my shelves with books I want to read rather than the books I've already read.

1 comment:

the secret knitter said...

Catching up on a pathetic backlog...

Bless your packrat heart, even if you're trying not to hoard. I've done the same thing with saving padded mailers. I had to throw out several when the office moved, and I wish I hadn't now.