Saturday, February 24, 2007

BookMooch v. Paperback Swap

On my quest to get some free/cheap books for my 100 Books for 2007 goal, after hearing about PaperbackSwap, I signed up for it, and then Lesley told me about so I've signed up for that one as well. It's been a couple of weeks since I've used both sites, and I'm here with my pros and cons of each one!

I signed up for and listed 15 books with each site. This gave me 3 credits on PaperbackSwap and 2.7 credits on

Ok, so here's the deal. I like certain aspects of each site better than the other. If they could combine their two ideas into one site, it would kick tail.


On Paperback Swap, you get your initial 3 credits for posting 9 books. You can post 100 more books and get no more credits for posting books. I find that disappointing. I've now posted 30+ books on PaperbackSwap and have zero credits, since I've requested several books. The only way I've found to add credits to my account so I can get more books, apart from swapping books (I'll get to that), is to purchase quick credits for $2.75 a piece. Now, that's not bad for a book, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than $12 for a paperback or $24+ for a hardcover. But still, I'm contributing a pile of books to your site, and by rights, I should have at least 9 credits for all those books, and instead have zero.

BookMooch is the same. You get your initial credits, and then that's it, until your books are requested. However, what's slightly different about BookMooch (and slightly better) is that if you contribute to the site in some way (leaving feedback, for example), then you get 1/10th of a credit. For instance, I received a book in the mail a couple of days ago, and just logged on to say how I felt about the transaction, and they awarded me 1/10 of a point for the effort. The downside is that I don't really see what I can get for 7/10 of a point I have at the moment.

Still, on this one, I give the slight edge to BookMooch.

Ease of Use

Both sites have their ups and downs.

For my money, BM is a little bit clunkier. You have to log on in one of those pop up windows each time you go to the site after shutting your browser, while PBS remembers you.

The colors are nicer on the BM site, and I like their 3 book logo better than the 3 recycling arrows of PBS. BM's navigation menu is in tabs across the top, while PBS's are larger and along the left hand side of the site. Neither one is difficult to read, but PBS's are ever so slightly easier.

I'm giving this one to PBS, but only by a hair.

Searching for Books

The minute you open the PBS site, you can do a search from the homepage. With BM, you have to log in and then click on "Browse" and then you can search. However, with BM, once you're logged in, your information is immediately displayed on the main page (# of credits, # of swaps, etc.). On PBS, you have to click on "Name's Account" before you can see your credit and swapping information.

Where their search pages are concerned, the BM site is a bit more spartan. When logging on to search for books, you can search the site, search or search a particular member's book shelf. Those are all the options listed.

When clicking on the search page for PBS, you can search by title, author, or ISBN, click a new tab and search by member, or browse genres (they also have subcategories), click by letter to search by title or author (if you're too lazy to type it in), or you can see the most recently posted and popular books. If you do a search and the book you want is not listed in the system, you can do a search of "unposted books" and add the book to your wish list.

Now, I've done a basic search on the book The Ha Ha by Dave King, which is a book I'm dying to get my hands on. When I search "The Ha Ha", it is the first book that comes up on the PBS site. When I search for it on BM, it does not come up at all. So I also search Dave King. Dave King doesn't show up on BM. However, at the bottom of the BM search results page, I can "search unavailable books" and when I do so, Dave King's The Ha Ha comes up as the first book. (In the interest of full disclosure, I must say, I did find the book on BM a couple of days ago and ordered it.)

So on this one, I must say, PBS wins for being more intuitive and less work.


Each site makes it fairly easy to swap. Obviously, since this is the whole point of the site, but once you've navigated the search and found your book, all you do is click on "Order this book" or "Mooch this Book" and you move on to the next step.

PBS puts "Order this book" in a great big button right on top of the book description, while BM's button is smaller and off to one side.

Now, as the sender primarily, since I haven't built up a lot of credits right now, I'm going to tell you that I *heart* PBS's mailing system. Once you get an email that a book on your shelf has been requested, it gives you a two step process. Number one, print out a wrapper. The wrapper is pre-addressed and the postage pre-measured for you. You print it out on standard computer paper, tape the paper around your book, add stamps and shove it in the mail. When done, you confirm that it has been mailed. When received, the person requesting it goes on and clicks a button that says the book has arrived, and you get your credit. You get email reminders every step of the way.

BM's is more "labor intensive"... Wrappers are not included, so you have to wrap the book and address it yourself. Once you've mailed the book, it's on you to go back on the site, find the 'confirm mailing' button, and say it's been mailed.

I've only just mailed my first book for that site, so I'm not sure what will happen once the book is received. We'll have to see.

One thing about BM is that once you agree to mail the book, you get your credit. So really, there's no impetus on the mailer to mail the book... you have your credit, so why bother. On the other hand, with PBS, if you request a book, not only is the credit removed from your account, but it is not given to the mailer until you confirm that the book has arrived. That way, everyone is responsible.

Additionally, BM doesn't make you guarantee that the condition of your book is any good. Consequently, the first book I received from BM was stained with coffee. All the books I've received from PBS have been in excellent condition. You must confirm before listing that your book is in good shape with no visible damage and the covers are in tact when you list with PBS. That is not the case with BM, and I'm sad to say that the book bears this out.

So again, on this one, PBS gets it right.

Listing Books

Both sites make it easy to list your books. Simply flip your book over, type the ISBN number into the box, and the book pops up. Confirm it's the book you have and it's listed!

One downside of PBS is that if you have multiple copies of the same book, you cannot list it twice. You must wait until your first copy is requested and mailed, and then re-list the second copy. This is not the case for BM. If you have multiple copies, list them all!

Additionally, if you don't confirm that you have mailed a book, and the book request expires, you must re-list the book, ask the person who requested it to please re-request it, and then confirm the sending. This happened to me, and fortunately the requester was gracious about it. I had put the book in the mail, just hadn't clicked the button to confirm it had been sent. (This refers to PBS--BM doesn't seem to have a timetable for confirming that you've mailed a book...)

For that reason, I give the edge to BM in this category.



Both sites offer users the chance to create buddy/friend lists of other users. Since two girls in my book club use PBS, they are both listed on my friend's list.


BM offers the chance to donate your points/credits to charity or to a friend.


PBS has a "fun and games" section where you can play 20 questions surrounding books.

PBS also offers a kiosk where you can purchase PBS items, including points, mugs, mousepads, hats, shirts, pencils, etc.

PBS also offers the "box of books" program. You sign up and agree to swap entire boxes of books with a fellow member. The downside (if there is one) is that you do have to take those to the post office and mail them media mail, rather than just slapping some stamps on the box and sending them.

PBS is much more of a community site. There are discussion forums and there's a chat room, whereas BM is more of a list 'em, mail 'em business type of site. PBS even has a writer's forum where you can submit your writing and have other writers critique what you've done.

Advantage: PBS--it's more fun.


Both sites have definite advantages and disadvantages. I'm more in love with PBS. There's more to do, they seem to have a broader inventory, and it's easier for me to use on most accounts.

In a perfect world, if I were combining the two sites, here's what I'd take from both of them...

1. Get more credits for participating in the site.
2. All the community benefits
3. The charity donation option
4. The decorations of BM with the ease of use of PBS
5. The ease of listing, and the ability to list multiple copies
6. Mailing wrappers available for printing
7. Responsibility on both the sender and the receiver

Overall, the advantage goes to PBS, but I will keep my books listed in both places, so that I can hopefully get rid of the 35+ books I want out of my house. Thanks to Lesley and Maritza for recommending both.

5 pearl(s) of wisdom:

Lesley said...

Interesting to read your analysis of both sites, Susan. I've never spent any time on either (I don't need any more means of getting more books in my house!), so I'm glad to learn the ins and outs from you.

By the way, B&N has the hardcover version of The Ha-Ha on their bargain shelves right now - I snagged myself a copy but haven't read it yet. If your B&N doesn't have the same selection, let me know and I'll pick one up here and mail it to you.

Kate/Susan said...

I'll definitely let you know if this copy doesn't turn up!!

I figure this is a great way to get some things off my "I wanna read this!" list, without having to actually buy the books. Way cheaper... And most of the books I've gotten are in "like new" condition... So it's been great. I got one book I love and will keep, one I re-listed, and no real dogs, so that's nice...

My "to read" shelf is getting way too full.

Erin said...

Yeah I looked at Bookmooch earlier and it just seems too different from what I'm used to with Paperback swap. I was browsing google to find a comparison of the two, though, so I'm so glad you wrote this write-up! :)

Dirty Girl said...

PBS loses for those of us outside The US, becuase it's USA only.

Jenn said...

Hi!!! I know this is a very old post, but I stumbled upon it when looking for more info. on Paperback Swap. Are you still a member there? I too live in VA and am looking for others who are close by to swap with.