Narrated by William H. Whyte in 1980.
Classic, and strangely familiar if you work in product, or skateboard.
I mean BookMooch—have you tried it? It’s enough to send a book hoarder past the point of no return. You go and list the books you have that you no longer want and if they’re good ones, you’ll receive email alerts within minutes from people who have those same books on their wishlists and would love for you to send yours to them. Do that quickly and you’ll earn good feedback, which will build up points which allow you to acquire the books you want from other souls. No money is exchanged. It’s book wealth redistribution and it’s lovely.
There are other services like this, namely PaperBackSwap, but they feel more corporate. PaperBackSwap is gearing up to start charging, as they repeatedly tell you when you sign up, and rather than get out of the way of the book-love fest like BookMooch they seem bent on complicating things. First they pair you up with a veteran user who has volunteered to be your Tour Guide, which is a little awkward, then they introduce money into the equation—you can buy book-credits as well as “PBS Money,” which is used to pay for their branded delivery confirmation feature: a printable barcode scanned by the postal service for tracking purposes that ties into your PBS account and streamlines book-credit management. You can also buy printable postage with your PBS Money, or pay $8 for the privilege of exchanging boxes of books with someone (Box-o-Books™).
On the other hand, PaperBackSwap’s traffic is higher than that of BookMooch and they have more books available. They’re also out to become the Oprah of modern book exchange and could care less about the whiny book blogger demographic.
BookMooch is non-profit, has a bang-up API, hangs out with some great charities, plays well with LibraryThing and was created by John Buckman, Renaissance lutenist and founder of Magnatune among other good things. It’s also enabled some unexpected acquisitions like the early signed edition of a book by Thomas Flanagan (who shares my birthday and whose daughter‘s work is a good conversation starter on the internet). In sum: BookMooch good.
Back in February, I reviewed all the book-oriented social networks I could find and concluded that what I really wanted was a more personalized version of Google Books. The rich related content with which Google surrounds many books is what makes it so valuable. Compare the book information pages for A History of Underground Comics (for example) side-by-side Mahalo-style on Google Books, LibraryThing and Shelfari.
Today Google Books launched My Library, effectively ending my whining.
Now LibraryThing has a lot of great features and is rolling out new ones constantly—and when it comes to socializing around books, LT and Shelfari are apparently where it’s at—but the one thing none of these bookish social networks offer is full-text search of the books in your collection. Google’s got that and suddenly, for the first time, I’m thinking it might actually be worthwhile to start cataloging my books online. Put in a little entry time and you’ll be able to search the contents of your entire book collection in under a second. They call that a value proposition.
Only problem now is most of the books I’ve been reading lately were published before 1930 by obscure publishing concerns and are as impossible to find in Google Book Search as they are in the real world. But Google’s new embeddable public-domain book-clipping feature pretty much makes up for that.