Thursday, September 16, 2010

How To Get Free Books: Part 2

Today is the second part of my new mini-feature How To Get Free Books. This feature is dedicated to showing readers how to get free and cheap books to help supplement tight book buying budgets (without badgering publishers for copies).

Here's links to catch up if you missed anything. Otherwise, the new stuff's below!
Part 1: Blogs

How to Get Free Books: Part 2, Trading

I know I mentioned trading with other bloggers briefly in my post last week. So today we're going to discuss that on a wider scale. Which means today's post is all about trading websites.

Trading is easily the way that I get most of my books. If I can blame anything on the hundreds of books that have come my way in the past 4 years, it would be trading. Is it completely free? Well, no, this is one of those ways that you get nearly free books. But as long as you're smart about your methods, you can get some truly excellent deals. Becoming smart takes a lot of trial and error and a lot of experience. So that's where I come in. I've been doing this for 4 years now, so I've learned some tips and tricks to get you off to a great start.

First of all, for those of you who've never heard of trading websites, this is the general idea. You go through your bookshelves and pull out all those old books that you have outgrown, won't read a second time, didn't want in the first place, etc. Then choosing a trading website, you list those books on the website for other people to request. So you mail the book to the other member. Other people can request your books and then you can turn around and request books from other members, who mail the book you requested to your house. The method in which this happens depends a little on the site you're using, but the idea is the same.

Before we get into specifics, there's something I want to emphasize. Although trading the books themselves is free, you do have to pay for postage for your book to get to the other member. And postage adds up fast. So the key here is MEDIA MAIL. This is a special discounted rate the Post Office has specifically for mailing media (books, CDs, and DVDs). It's going to save you a ton of money over parcel post and first class (or even priority) mail. Books are usually 1 pound or under (except for some hardcovers), which will cost you $2.38. If you mail a hardcover book (usually under 2 pounds) it will cost you $2.77. Anyone who's interested can find the rate chart here, but as you can see it's much cheaper.

So you can get a new-to-you book for just the price of postage when you trade. I'm going to cover my top three favorite trading sites and a few tips for each one. There are many out there, but these three are the ones I use the most.
  • Cost to join: Free
  • Method of trading: Every book you post gets you .1 point. Every book you send earns you 1 point. Marking books received also gains you .1 point. Requesting books will cost you 1 point for domestic and 2 points for international.
  • Wish List: One member on the wish list is randomly selected to get an hour head start. After an hour it's first come, first served.
  • Requesting method: Requestors can pick which person they order from based on their feedback, the book's condition, location, etc.
  • This is the only site I know of that's open to international members.
  • My profile can be found here for anyone who's interested in joining.
  • Cost to join: Free
  • Method of trading: +1 credit for every book you send, +2 credits for every audiobook. Requesting books will cost the same (1 credit for books, 2 for audiobooks).
  • Posting your first 10 books to trade will earn you 2 initial start up credits to use right away. Otherwise you get your credit when a book is marked received.
  • This site is based on the a system called First In, First Out. The first book posted will be the first requested. The other books are then placed in "line" behind it to wait their turn for requesting. The wish list works the same way.
  • Contrary to the name, you can trade both hardbacks and paperbacks as well as audiobooks and textbooks.
  • If you run out of credits to request books with you can purchase them for $3.45 a credit from the site.
  • This site has a very active forum, so often you can find deals and wish list books there
  • If you'd like to put me as a referring member, my username is Greycat133 (recently changed the name from
  • Cost to join: Free, although you have to put a credit card on file. This is to pay for postage printed through their site, although you don't have to use it after giving them your credit card number (I don't).
  • EDITED TO ADD - announced this week that trading will no longer be free at their site. It will now cost $.50 to $1.00 for each trade, and delievery confirmation (an additional postage charge) is required on all packages. Changes go into effect October 1st.
  • Method of trading: Swapping directly. You send a member a book they want, and they send you one you want. No credit/point system.
  • You can also trade your books for DVDs, CDs, or video games and vice versa (those items for new books)
  • As a tip, only put books you are willing to send out for any book on your "Have List". Cancelling orders can limit your account otherwise.
  • This site does allow you to swap ARCs, although you must state it is an ARC in your condition notes, and you cannot post anything before it's release date.
  • This site can be one of the most frustrating because their database is a little weird, but it also can be the most rewarding. I've gotten two very hard to find books from trades I did here, both traded for books I had that I no longer wanted.
  • Once again, my username is Greycat133 if you'd like to find me here. (ETA: I will be closing my account October 1st when the above metioned changes go into effect.)

I could easily make a regular feature out of tips for these three websites, but this post is already getting kind of long. So if I get a lot of interest in a trading sites tip feature, then I'll pursue it. Otherwise, I'm sure you're getting sick of scrolling down. :)

So with that I'll end this week's post. As always, I'm open to your own tips and suggestions, which may find their way into a future post.

Until then, happy reading!


Jessi E. said...

I love and would recommend Paperbackswap, though I would suggest being careful (really this could apply to any of these sites) - have a list of books you want, and don't just start swapping for random books. I had to stop doing it because I was wasting so much money on books I wasn't going to read.

Anonymous said...

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