Monday, March 05, 2007

My latest obsession

My name is Shandon and I am an addict.

In the last 72 hours I have become completely and willingly enslaved to BookMooch, a book swap website. Registered users post an inventory of books they'd like to give away, and others can use points (accumulated by posting and "selling" their own inventory) to mooch stuff they'd like. It's up to the "seller" to pay postage. I registered a while back but didn't do anything with my account until Friday evening, when I posted 25 books I want to be rid of. 25 seems like a doable number, right? I figured people would be interested in a title or two, I'd mail the books off and replace them with others in my inventory, and slowly I'd whittle my bloated library down to something approaching manageable.

What I didn't really grasp is the power of BookMooch's "wish list" function. Members can list as many books as they'd like on their wish lists, and any time someone posts one of those titles, every person with that book on a wish list gets an email saying a copy is available. When I listed the new edition of The Joy of Cooking in my "inventory," I knew I'd be rid of it soon: I could see immediately that about a dozen people had it on their wish lists. Indeed, it was the first book mooched from me. That was Friday night. Saturday morning I took the book to work with me and packed it up for shipping, all cheerful about having one less book to crowd my shelves at home. Saturday evening I checked my account again and saw that a fellow in Chicago had mooched four of my gardening books. "Cool," I told myself. "Getting rid of these books is going to be easier than I thought."

Sunday morning I decided to add a few more titles to my inventory, and it was like chumming the water: there was this sudden feeding frenzy on my account. While I was in the middle of adding Water for Elephants to my inventory, everything suddenly slowed way down and I wasn't sure what was going on. Had I lost my internet connection? Was BookMooch down? I checked my inventory page and was irritated to see that the last half-dozen books I'd entered weren't there. What was going on? I checked my pending page and saw that every one of them had been mooched, along with several other titles I'd listed on Friday. Throughout the day I kept adding titles and people kept scooping them up. It was like being caught in the middle of an exciting, last-minute eBay bidding war. Moochers emailed me, asking if I would be their "friend," whatever that means. Last night, exhausted but triumphant, I looked at my library, now 31 volumes lighter, and smiled to myself with quiet glee. It was only then I thought, "Shit. I gotta pay postage on all these books." Thank goodness for Media Mail.

It feels good seeing a few spaces on my bookshelves. It feels even better knowing I've hooked people up with books they want -- even though it's costing me a little money. I've been a bookseller for my entire adult life and I still feel that satisfaction when reader meets book. Trust me: you wanna feel a little joy, take a look at some BookMooch wish lists, see if you have any of the desired titles (and are willing to part with them), register them, and watch the fun begin.


~ Lucy said...

Wait! What's Media Mail?!

shandon said...


It's specifically for printed material.

dindon said...

Great to be your mooch friend!

Keng Kiat

Sharon said...

I found your blog by searching bookmooch for people in our zipcode -- 91104 in Pasadena. I had the same experience, but with fewer books. Less than two weeks after joining, I've mailed out seven books, and requested two. One of the books was mooched by a guy who is like a bookmooch vacuum cleaner. His wishlist has more than 4,000 items on it, and he owns a bookstore. I felt like not sending him the the requested encyclopedia of crafts because it looked like he had wishlisted every single quilting, sewing and crafts book Amazon sells. But, why do I care where the book goes? I'll get my point to spend on a book that I really want. -- Sharon McN