November 20, 2008

BookMooch 101

Since I'm having trouble reading lately, I decided I would write a little about how the book swapping sites I use work starting with BookMooch. I'm very fond of these sites. I think I may have looked at both sites before first choosing BookMooch. I've been a member since March of 2007. The site is free save for paying to send books away, which you only pay as you send them out.

Starting Your Account: Adding Books

Something that automatically got my vote on this site were the cute little book bugs on their homepage. Once you create your account, you can begin entering books into your inventory that you are willing to give away to people who want them. I like entering books by ISBN number because that way you ensure that it is the same copy of the book in your account as the one you have. Having the correct book edition is sometimes very important so whoever requests a book from you knows exactly what they're getting. It also avoids most issues later on if it turns out a person who requests a book wanted a different or specific edition. It's a good idea to start out with ten books since entering each book gives you 1/10th of a point, just enough to request one book from another member in your country. It's okay to start by entering fewer books, though.

Condition Notes

After you've entered each book, you are given 1/10th of a point. It will show you if the book is on anyone's wishlist. Also after you add each book, you have the option to record condition notes. This is a wonderful feature that not all book swapping sites have. Here is where you may say your book is never read, new, like new, good, okay, fine, or perhaps a poor copy simply needing a good home. You can also say if the book has any stains, creases, tears, and odors. Some people are very bad at entering condition notes while others are very detailed. As a BookMoocher I would like to say that some of us really appreciate these condition notes. I try to leave one of these notes for every book I enter. I typically examine the spine of a book since I am very perturbed about how they look. I take note of the front and back side of the cover, go through the pages once or twice to see if there's any writing or highlighting inside, and make sure to include a note for if the book smells particularly like smoke. You can do a lot with the space for condition notes. It's a great place to say if the cover of your book looks different than the one featured. I like to go a step beyond that by providing a link to the actual cover of my own book. Book covers are very easy to find just by using google images or Amazon.


By clicking on the 'browse' tab, you may enter the title, author, or ISBN of a book you would like to request. After clicking the search button, you will be lead to a page that either lists books as available, unavailable, or perhaps says something that indicates the book has not yet been in the system. (In most cases, simply check your spelling. It's rare for a book to not have been on the site.) Sometimes you will see a book title multiple times on the search results page. Each of these is a different edition. Click each title to be linked to each copy's page where you may view where the type of book (see 'binding'), the publisher, year of publication, size of the book, and other information. It will also tell you where this copy / these copies reside if there are any available. Click 'Wishlist add' to add the book to your wishlist. If you think you are interested in a book but are not sure, you can also use the 'Save for Later' feature. Your BookMooch wishlist is easily accessible by selecting the 'wishlist' tab on the top of the screen. From that page you may select the 'Save for Later' button to view a list of those book.

Requesting Books

After adding ten books to your inventory (books you are willing to give away), you will have a full point. This enables you to request (aka mooch) a book from another BookMooch member so long as the book is from your country. Never fear if the copy of a book you want is owned by someone outside your own country: you may still request it so long as the owner is willing to send books outside their country. However, keep in mind that books from outside your own country cost two full points. I myself have sent and received books from outside my country and love the unique packaging I sometimes receive from those outside my country. To request a book, go to the book's page for any edition (but specifically the edition you desire) and click the button on the top of the page and to the right that says 'Mooch this Book.' You will find that BookMooch always uses the word mooch so it's good to remember what it means. After clicking the button, you are lead to a new page but have not mooched the book just yet. You will need to enter the security name at the top of the screen as well as select who you would like to receive the book from as well as perhaps leave an additional comment. Most people on BookMooch leave a thank you comment. They also might include a reply to anything included in the BookMooch member's status or condition notes. All that is left to do after this is to click the button 'Mooch Book Now.'

Pending Books: Books Requested by You

On the Pending Books tab, you will be able to view books you mooched from others and books mooched from you. Each are placed in a category such as 'Books Accepted to Send,' 'Books Delayed,' and 'Books Sent.' Once you have mooched a book and it arrives to your address, the next step is to go to your Pending Books page and mark the book as received. Sometimes but rarely there are problems with receiving books. This is typically the case for books that have been lost or damaged along the way. If a book has arrived damaged, I might consider contacting BookMooch staff and asking how to go about the situation. It is likely that you will get your point(s) for the book back. For lost books, there is a standard of perhaps six weeks to be sure the book is indeed lost. Once this time passes, you may mark it as lost and receive your point(s) back. If there is not a problem with the book you have received, you should leave a feedback score and optional comment. I have never been in the receiving end of this, but some people will cruelly mark the feedback as 0 or -1 when the book they received did not have any problems. Please be a kind and do the right thing. No one likes rude people. You will receive 1/10th of a point as a bonus for leaving a feedback score.

Pending Books: Books Requested by Others

When a person mooches a book from you, the first thing you do is click on any of the options beside the book and to the right. These options are 'Accept,' 'Delay,' and 'Reject.' There is also a button to view how much postage might cost to send the book. The typical response to a book request is 'accept' or 'delay.' A reason to request a book might be if the BookMooch member has been abusing the site (more below). Another reason might be if the book they requested costs more money than you are willing to spend to send the book to them, however, only if they live outside your country. Rejecting to members of your own country based on price of sending a book is not an acceptable reason to reject a mooch. After selecting 'Accept' for a book mooched by you, you will have the option of selecting how long till you send the book as well as a message. Most people send books within a matter of days to two weeks. The automatic message is "Thank you for mooching from me! I will send the book soon," unless you choose to edit it. It's good to be up front about how much time will pass before you send a book. If you are new to BookMooch and are accepting mooches for delay keep in mind it doesn't look good on your part if you are using the points you earn from the delayed books to mooch some yourself before sending those books. It's a good way to accidentally fall in the hole if anyone cancels their mooches before you send them. For every book requested by someone in your country, you will receive one full point. For every book requested by someone outside your country, you will receive three full points.

Sending Books

Once you have sent mooched books out, return to your Pending page to select each book as 'Sent.' When it comes to books within your country, many Americans send by media mail. Sometimes First Class is cheaper if the book is light weight. When it comes sending books outside the U.S. to another country, Americans usually spend $7 - $25. The book is sent quickly and should arrive soon. This fee might seem high, but it is good considering you earn three full points from every book mooched from someone outside your country. One of the three points you're given comes from BookMooch itself to help pay for the cost of sending books outside your country and possibly overseas. I am someone who is usually happy to send books outside my own country because of the bonus of an extra two points. I am unhappy that other countries sometimes take a very long time because they may send books 'the slow way' if they please whereas Americans do not have that option. Still, I try to be a good person.

BookMooch Abuse

Every so often you may make a book transaction with a person who you may have trouble with. The person may request lots of books, including one or multiple books from you, and then disappear from the site without giving any away themselves nor marking books as received. This is the kind of person who needs to be reported when you are in one a situation like that. Another form of BookMooch abuse is only sending books that are 'lost.' It most cases, it means that the person did not actually send books at all, but marked them as sent. They are looking for a way of getting books for free. You can always view a member's history on their profile page if you want to be sure you are requesting a book from a good person to request from. Always keep in mind that BookMooch staff is there to help you. Be watchful of your BookMooch ratio on your BookMooch homepage. A ration of 5:1 is the highest you may have, I think. This interprets as five books received for one book sent. Many BookMoochers send just as many books as they give away, which is a good way to go about it. I have a score of 1.05:1. This translates as receiving one point five books for every book I have sent.

Have Fun!

I enjoy keeping track of where I send books to and where I receive them from. This is every state in the US I have sent or received books to as well as by country:

visited 38 states (76%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or try another Douwe Osinga project

visited 11 states (4.88%)
Create your own visited map of The World or try another Douwe Osinga project