Profiles of the Green and Frugal: PaperBackSwap

>> Friday, April 3, 2009

Have you ever joined one of those clubs that try to tempt you into buying a "featured" book every month? In my experience, pretty expensive and pretty wasteful.

Instead, consider a club that lets you give new life to your old books, connects you with free used books, and is pretty eco-friendly to boot.

That club is PaperBackSwap, and I recently sat down with Raleigh resident Deborah Cornett, who does feedback and marketing for PaperBackSwap, to learn more about how it works.

How to Swap

  1. Register an account at PaperBackSwap.
  2. Post the books you want to give away. When you've posted 10 books, you will receive 2 free credits that you can use to request books from other members.
  3. Browse the books on the website, find a book you want, and click "Order this book." Each book costs 1 credit.
  4. Another member will mail you the book. They pay shipping; you pay nothing.
  5. When someone requests one of your books, use the site to print out a "mailer" on two sheets of paper. This includes the requester's address and postage, which you can pay for on the site.
  6. Wrap the book in the mailer and pop it in the mail via USPS media mail.
  7. When the person gets your book, you will receive 1 credit to use toward your next book.
The Budget-Conscious will want to keep in mind...
  • Any book you receive is yours for as long as you want it. There are no late fees, and you can even keep the book if you want.
  • If you want to get books, you have to give away books, and each time you mail a book to someone else, you need to pay shipping. According to Cornett, mailing a book using media mail costs $2-$3, depending on the weight of the book.
  • If you want more books than you're giving away, you can purchase credits through the site's kiosk. These cost $3.45 per credit (still much cheaper than buying a new book).
  • If you're watching your wallet, remember that the library is free. But Cornett believes that PaperBackSwap is a better bet when you're looking for a book that is popular. She related that she wanted to read Twilight but didn't want to buy it, so she tried requesting it from the library. "I was 200-something on the list," she said, "So I added it to my wishlist [on PaperBackSwap], and I got it in two weeks."
The Eco-Conscious will want to keep in mind...

This is a great way to purge your bookshelves of all those books you've picked up over the years but didn't want to add to a landfill. Books with full-color pictures such as cookbooks, textbooks, and travel guides would be especially great to pass on - they often aren't accepted by recycling facilities because they're more difficult to recycle. Plus, Cornett points out that cookbooks are the type of book you would want to keep for a long time - generally longer than a library allows.

Because PaperBackSwap is not a "green" company per se, make sure you keep your experience eco-friendly by:
  • Using the mailer option provided by the website, rather than using a bubble mailer.
  • Printing the mailer on paper that has already been printed on one side or paper with recycled content.
  • Using the postage option on the website and mailing the book from home, rather than driving to the post office.
  • Mailing your books via USPS media mail, which is sent by ground and comes to your house anyway.
If You're Hooked...You might want to consider PaperBackSwap's partner sites, SwapaCD and SwapaDVD.

More about Deborah Cornett

Besides providing member support and feedback, Cornett's duties at PaperBackSwap include promoting their unique fundraiser program. Organizations have the opportunity to raise money for their group by referring people to PaperBackSwap. If you would like more information about this program, email me at ena [dot] peters [at] gmail [dot] com, and I will put you in touch with Cornett.

In addition to her job at PaperBackSwap, Cornett also owns a small landscape gardening business, although she's currently focusing only on work for friends and neighbors. She tries to keep her yard green and eco-friendly by using the following methods:
  • After mowing, it's best to "leave the grass trimmings on the grass."
  • Share a lawnmower with a friend, or use a reel mower.
  • Compost.
  • "Weedeaters are awesome if you know how to use them...They're actually really good for weed control for your lawn. If you have a huge patch of weeds, you can just chop with your weedeater into the dirt and get all the way down to the base, and then encourage the other grass to grow, versus trying to use chemicals."

This post is part of a new series highlighting green and frugal businesses and people, especially in the Raleigh area. If you work in the green industry or know someone who does, let me know in the comments so I can consider you for future posts.


Daisy April 4, 2009 at 2:32 PM  

I adore Paperbackswap! I get print books for myself and audio books for my blind son. Shipping is reasonable, and I reuse the envelopes and mailers over and over. This site has been great for me and my family.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper April 7, 2009 at 4:10 PM  

Daisy - PaperBackSwap is a cool idea - glad to hear it's working for you. And great tip for using the envelopes over and over.

Deborah April 8, 2009 at 4:10 PM  

Thanks Erin! I really enjoyed this article! My bosses thought it was great as well and appreciated me doing the interview with you. Thanks to Jeanne Moyer for introducing us:)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper April 8, 2009 at 9:08 PM  

Deborah - Glad you like the article. Thanks for doing the interview!

Green Jeanne April 9, 2009 at 2:40 PM  

Great article Erin! Thanks for featuring Deborah. I'm so glad I was able to connect the two of you. Deborah's a member of the women's networking group that I founded, Coffee and Contacts ( It's great to see that networking is working and expanding beyond the organization. Swapping is such an ecological choice.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper April 9, 2009 at 8:35 PM  

Jeanne - Thanks for connecting me and Deborah! I enjoyed meeting and talking with her.

Alice Osborn April 13, 2009 at 9:49 PM  

Fantastic post! Deborah is our Coffee & Contacts networking group and I'm so glad Jeanne connected you two!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper April 14, 2009 at 10:39 PM  

Alice - I enjoyed talking with Deborah. If there are any other women involved in green businesses in your Coffee and Contacts networking group, send them my way!

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