Friday, February 08, 2008

"When Free Books Aren't Really Free"



There is an interesting, although negative, take on Bookmooch.com posted at the CNN/Money.com website today. I've had very little real experience with Bookmooch myself, having mailed out a total of 9 books and received 5 in return so far, but I've started to wonder a bit ab0ut exactly the main point that is being made in this CNN article: Are used book bookstores taking advantage of the system to dump a bunch of junk (accumulating points) to get "sellable" books in return? Are they dumping all of their unsellable stuff and making so much money on what they pick up in return that they make a tidy profit above what they spend on postage to send out a few "junk" books?

And, if that's the case, is it wrong or not? Should they be allowed to "cherry pick" the book orchard this way?
I fear Internet entrepreneurs may be taking advantage of Bookmooch in a similar way. After all, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of people these days using the Internet to sell used books for cash. And once the idea of resale outside the system is introduced, Bookmooch's point scheme becomes close to irrelevant; booksellers would have no problem giving away hundreds of books they can't sell in order to acquire books they can.

So far, I've sent out four books, and no one has sent me any on my wish list (which supposedly automatically sends an e-mail to anyone who's offered up that book). And one of the books on my giveaway list - "Religion and Popular Culture in America" - aroused the interest of three moochers within my first 24 hours on the site. But they reneged when they learned that mine was not the updated edition. That smacks of a professional interest in reselling, which stung even more when the moochers posted not-entirely-helpful feedback almost implying that I misled them (I didn't even know there was a subsequent edition).
I know that many of you love Bookmooch and have picked up dozens of books that way. I blame the fact that I've picked up only five books more on my own laziness than anything else and I don't blame the Bookmooch system for my low numbers. I look at Bookmooch as a site where I can pick up books for about $2.50 a copy, the media rate charged by the post office for most of the books I mail out to those requesting them. That works for me...but if I have to compete with full-time clerks at used book bookstores, is it fair - or not. What do you guys think?

15 comments:

  1. hhhmm, very interesting. i only recently discovered bookmooch but am in a slump at the moment - no one wants what's left in my inventory. well, at least those who are in my country don't want them.

    i refuse to send outside of the country - as the cost for sending out is more than the cost of buying a book new. pretty useless.

    i often wonder why i fellow moochers who willingly spend 500-100 pesos (about $10-20 for 3 points. we've tons of secondhand books available here for a dollar or less.

    i'm rambling. ha. you got me thinking about this some more, sam.

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  2. I didn't realize this about Bookmooch. My experience with them has been annoying. I'm good about sending out a book of mine that's been mooched, but when I want something, it's like "oh golly gee, I'm a poor college student, unable to afford postage" or there was the time someone refused to send me a book because "Voss really isn't the best Patrick White novel to start with." Fume, fume.

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  3. I didn't read the whole article, but that quote sounded pretty whiny to me (especially the 'supposedly)-it's difficult to get books on your wishlist regardless! I've cancelled requests when a book wasn't the right edition, and not because I'm a bookseller. However, it is annoying that bookstores are allowed on bookmooch now.

    I've never had any bad experiences, beyond a few lost books, and I've gotten a ton of books that way!

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  4. I've had a pretty positive experience with BookMooch. I've sent out over twenty books and gotten thirty. Only a few mishaps and I understand why people refuse books that aren't the edition they want; I do it myself. Lots of people use BookMooch to just get reading material; I use it to add books to my personal library, so sometimes I want certain editions (to match others and make a set) or sizes (I don't like mass market paperbacks). So I'm not being picky because I'm a bookseller, but because the books I mooch I plan to keep. I have gotten frustrated lately with being unable to find any books I want to mooch; I didn't think it might be because booksellers are flooding the system with junky books and taking all the good ones. That makes me sad; but is it right either to exclude them? I don't know.

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  5. I enjoy BookMooch. I used to use paperbackswap.com when I still lived home in The US. Since I moved to Canada, it's been Bookmooch because of the worldwide audience. It was a lifesaver when I found out how much books cost up here!

    I don't think there's anything wrong with people wanting a certain edition, size, cover of a book. There are certain books I am picky about (editions) and I will not mooch mass markets as I hate them. I do list them because someone gave me some and I need to get rid of them. So I do not agree with the author that it automatically "snacks of a professional interest in reselling." I do have a bit of a pet peeve with people who will not send outside of their country. I understand it can be expensive, but when people in the US won't send to anyone in North America (which costs perhaps a dollar or two more), it drives me batty! I do state in my bio that I will not send popular books to people who will not send outside of their country. I'd rather give my books to others who are flexible in their sending.

    I've come across an "administrator" that stated he was not sending books out for some time yet he continued to list books. I tried mooching a book off of him and he had a coronary. I responded and he asked what the problem was. The problem was: Why is he allowed to continue to list books and raise his points while continuing to mooch? Then he refused to send books out? That is a bit "fishy" I think.

    Sometimes you have to wait on your list. From out of nowhere, after weeks without anyone mooching, I'll have three requests for books. Sometimes it takes a bit of patience.

    I wish BookMooch had the system that PBS does. First in, first out. If you have a book on a wishlist, you take a number. If someone lists the book, the first person in line is able to grab the book. If they decide they don't want it at the time, they can pass it on.

    Overall, I enjoy BookMooch. Of course you're going to come across with a few crazies--you're dealing with the public. However, the other book lovers there more than make up for them.

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  6. I left you an award on my blog!! Have a great day!!

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  7. Aloi, I'm kind of in a BookMooch slump myself right now. My inventory has dwindled down to just a few and I'm a bit afraid to add to it because I don't have the time to make regular post office runs at the moment. Plus, I am so behind on my reading, with such a large TBR stack, that I really don't want to add to the much to the stack for a bit.

    I'm pretty happy with the BookMooch experience...just haven't "worked" it much.

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  8. I havent' had that kind of thing happen, Bybee...is there some place on BookMooch to file a formal complaint about people like those? They should not be allowed to refuse a book because they don't think you need that particular one or by claiming poverty...they should be booted from the system with that kind of attitude.

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  9. Shari, I got the impression from the article that the writer didn't really give it enough time to make a fair judgement...but the bookstore thing does kind of bother me still.

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  10. Great points, Jeane. I'm much the same way...the books I mooch are ones I'm hoping to make a permanent part of my collection. I, too, hate mass market paperbacks and try to avoid them as much as possible, so I'm picky on the edition I mooch.

    The bookseller thing could be positive for us maybe but I think it leaves a whole lot of room for abuse by the bookstores...and where there's an open door someone will come in and take advantage. I'm afraid that's what is happening here.

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  11. Great points there, Carrie. I think the "fishy" situation that you described is exactly what this writer was trying to point out. A bookstore can potentially list hundreds of books and rack up enough points to then cherry pick the inventory of others who are not as aware of what is more valuable, etc.

    Once someone refuses to send out a requested book, they should not be allowed to continue listing books. BookMooch desperately needs, if it doesn't already have one, some kind of system to report that kind of abuse.

    I also have to wonder at why some members have such a high number of "lost" books that never seem to make it to where the books were supposedly sent.

    Some people will always cheat the system, of course, and I've tried to be very careful about dealing with only the ones who seem to be legitimate.

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  12. Hey, thanks for that, Kristina. Awards always make my day...rare as they are. :-)

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  13. I've had fantastic experiences with both Bookmooch and PBS. Now, though, it IS getting increasingly harder to get books on my wishlist. I chalked it up to both sites becoming more popular.

    Bookmooch's policy is way too liberal, IMO. I do think they've modified their mooch ratio, but I actually think they could even be stricter without complaints from most 'regular' moochers.

    3M
    http://1morechapter.com

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  14. I agree with you 3M...they could tighten up the rules and the only complaints would probably come from those who are trying to abuse the system as it is right now. It might make it a bit easier to find books we're looking for.

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  15. One major probem is the 'adminstrater' is an amazon seller he has multiple bookmooch accounts. You can complain but then they just shut you down. This is a scam. Yes it works for the average reader like you and me that legitimately simply trade unwanted books for our wishlist. However the admin is sitting watching for new inventory and cherry picking high dollar books. The same admin that refused to ship for awhile. And he has yet another id.

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