Thursday, August 09, 2012

Creating A Virtuous Circle for Book Exchange

The sheer number of start ups continues unabated. Some address new opportunities and warrant a closer look, but many often fail to deliver their elevator pitch. Many make sense, but little money, others make little sense but still attract money, a mere handful become successful and are often eaten up by larger organisations.

One that we found very interesting is the US start up Bookmooch, which is a used book exchange.

Users list their books that they want to trade,  getting credits for those listed. When another user takes one of the books the seller gets additional credits. No money changes hands and all that is paid out is the postage by the seller. The acquired credits from trading can then be used to acquire other books. In rewarding the giving of books with credits that can only be used at the exchange, Bookmooch has created a virtual circle of engagement. However one can only benefit if the book you want is in the exchange so Bookmooch also allows members to create wish lists and if their needs are not available they have the option to buy them seamlessly from Amazon. Members can also provide feedback on the titles they acquire. There are no membership fees, no trading fees and Bookmooch makes money through advertising and Amazon referral commission.

The site has been operating for 6 years, and has a quarter of a million members.  The “give one  and acquire another” approach has much appeal to those with bulging bookshelves  who are looking for new reads.

Many may question whether a free exchange can make serious money as what money it makes is out of secondary services. We would suggest that with the numbers it is attracting both in active members and usage the opportunity is real. The information it is collecting on demand, listings, demographics etc and on backlist titles itself has real value. However if, or should that be when, the first sale doctrine on ebooks gets addressed its model and appeal could take off. This again raises the thorny issue of the current pricing and licensing of ebooks and whether the current arrangement is in the consumer interest and sustainable.


thebookexchangeuk said...
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thebookexchangeuk said...

I just wanted to drop you a note as I have also just launched a book exchange website – - it’s so great that lots of people are getting into the book exchange spirit! Ours is slightly different though in that customers trade directly with us and receive account credit for each title they send in which can be redeemed against all the books on the site. We make our income via the traditional method of selling all our used books for a flat £2.50 per title.

We too are really hoping that Bookmooch, and other exchange sites like Green Metropolis and ReadItSwapIt (not to mention all the independent mini exchanges and community libraries springing up all over the globe) go well. I'm not sure about the other networks but ours is less about generating serious money (I do it on my own and continue to work part-time elsewhere), for me it's about championing the physical book; building a readers community and paving the way for readers to re-read and re-discover literary treasures!

Thank you for taking the time to blog about this new method of book buying and exchanging, I for one strongly believe that these unique trade-in services give readers the chance to experiment with new authors, publishers and genres they may not normally consider, which can only help the publishing industry as a whole. After all who hasn't gone on to become hooked on a particular author or genre after picking up a second-hand copy for a couple of quid or borrowing from friends?