How many of us have piles of books on our shelves that we will never read again (or never read at all)? Movies and CDs we have lost interest in over the years? What about those piles of magazines we can’t seem to bring ourselves to pass along (or dump in the recycling bin)?
Wouldn’t it be great if you could swap those unused media items for others that you really do want? Better yet, what if the swap service was free (or nearly free)? Well, here’s some great news! Thanks to a new trend in online swapping, there are several great web sites available specifically geared toward media swapping! You can find many different sites of this type simply by typing media/book/cd/movie swap/trade in Google or Yahoo, but in this article I am going to highlight the top sites that I have personal experience with.
1. Paperbackswap (PBS) – this is probably the biggest of the swap sites. PBS is specifically for swapping reading material – paperbacks, hardcovers, and audio books. With over 650,000 books currently posted, and a goal of one million books by the end of 2006, PBS has over 10,000 members and adds more than 20 new members per day. You can find all sorts of books at PBS…home school texts, tons of science fiction and fantasy, kids’ books, professional guides, out of print books, and more! There are also games, user forums, book discussions, a chat room, a place to track the books you’ve read (and the books you want to read), and a wish list for books you would like to receive.
PBS works on a credit basis…when you join, you are asked to post 9 or more books you would be willing to mail to other members. Once you have posted your initial 9 books, you get 3 “free” credits you can use to order 3 books from other members. After your 3 initial credits are used up, you continue to build credits by sending books to other members. For each book you send out, you receive one credit at the time the book is received. For each credit you receive, you can order another book. There is also a “Box of Books” service, where you can do a direct swap of as many books as you would like with another member, without using credits. PBS is somewhat stricter than the other sites, you only have so many days to mail an item, and you can only post books in reasonably good condition, but that only helps to make the site fairer.
PBS is free to join, and swapping books costs only the postage to mail them media mail. If you get low on credits, you can buy them for 2.75 each, which is a lot less than used books cost at a book store. There is a fee for the Box of Books service, but it is very reasonable. PBS also offers delivery confirmation postage at a lower rate than the post office, and there is a PBS store where you can buy various items such as coffee mugs and t-shirts with the PBS logo, which is great for promoting the site to your friends. All items that PBS sells can be purchased via a Paypal account.
I (and many other members) have found PBS to be downright addictive, and so much fun. Oh, and one other thing…if you sign up a new member, you get a free book credit when they join, so if you decide to join after reading this article, please say that Bren referred you!
2. SwapACD (SACD) – from the same people who created Paperbackswap, SwapACD works on the same credit principle and the two sites are understandably quite similar. Start your membership by posting 10 CDs, and get 1 free credit. Although this site only opened up a few weeks ago, there are already over 3000 members and over 15,000 items posted. SACD is not quite free, there is a .50 fee for each swap but no membership fees. Best of all, for those who want to get CDs but don’t have a lot of CDs they are willing to give up, credits from Paperbackswap can be transferred over to your SwapACD account! Credits can also be purchased via Paypal. SACD is currently allowing CDs to be swapped without their cases, although this may be changed in future.
If you decide to join SwapACD, please be sure to say that Bren referred you!
3. Title Trader (TT) – this is the only site I have found that allows all forms of media swapping – books, magazines, CDs, VHS tapes, DVDs, and video games. Older forms of media (records, cassettes, etc.) are NOT allowed.
Like PBS, Title Trader works on a credit principle. When you join, you post as many items as you want. In order to get your first 3 credits, you have to ship at least one item and have received at least one positive feedback from another member. After you have gotten your initial 3 credits, you continue to receive 1 credit for each item you send out. Unlike PBS, where you don’t get a credit until your item is received, TT gives you your credit as soon as you mark an item shipped. However, if the other person never receives it, they can dispute the transaction, and if they win the dispute, you will lose the credit for that item. TT allows items in any condition to be posted; however, you have to choose from a drop-down box whether the item is New, Good, Fair, Poor, Bad, and there is a place to mention any specifics about the item such as a CD or video missing its case.
Title Trader does not have a lot of the bells and whistles that PBS has. It also does not have the same sense of community. There are extra features, such as wish list notification, a newsletter, a better search function, and buddy lists, if you want to upgrade to a premium membership. That, however, will cost you 19.95 a year, and personally I haven’t seen the need.
I don’t use Title Trader as much as I do PBS, but lately I have found it to be a great place to get kids’ videos for my son. Since he loses interest in them after only a few viewings, it’s nice to not have to shell out $10 or $20 each for them. I’ve also gotten a few hard-to-find CDs here. If you join Title Trader, tell them that bmhill71 referred you!
4. Frugal Reader (FR) – again, FR works on a credit basis. They only allow books here, and they don’t have as many members or items posted as PBS or TT. They are also free for the time being, and apparently support themselves with banner ads, which the other sites do not have. Like TT, FR allows books in any condition, but you have to specify what condition the book is in when you post it. At FR, you list 5 books when you join to get one free credit, or you can list 9 books and get 2 free credits. After you have successfully shipped your first two books, your account is upgraded to Premium, which gives you access to extra features such as the wish list, trade groups, the ability to purchase credits, and the ability to assign credit values to your items. This is a feature not available on the other sites. At FR, you can assign a credit value (up to 5 credits) to the items you post. Therefore, if you have a brand new book that is highly sought-after, you can “charge” more for it than just one credit. Or, if you have a large, heavy coffee-table book, you can ask for extra credits to make up for the fact that the shipping is going to be higher than it would be on your standard paperback. This is a nice feature for those of us who have a lot of heavier books lying around that we would like to pass along, and is one of the main reasons I use FR along with the other sites.
Like PBS, FR gives a referral credit when you sign up a new member, so if you join this site, please say that Bren sent you!
5. LaLa – this is a new site which I have only found recently. Right now it is still in beta test mode. LaLa is only for swapping music CDs and they are not completely free, but rather have a $1 per transaction swap fee. I haven’t had a chance to use LaLa yet, and I’m not really comfortable with the fact that they are the only site that asks for credit card information. However, since they are only in beta mode, there’s no telling what changes they may make, such as implementing Paypal for their fees rather than asking for direct CC payments. I’m guessing I won’t use this site much since I don’t have a lot of CDs I’m willing to give up, and since I can’t use other forms of media to earn credits, this could be a problem! But for anyone who’s taste in music changes regularly and leaves them with piles of CDs they don’t listen to anymore, LaLa could definitely be a great resource.