BookCrossing or BookMooching, anyone?

I have too many books.

I have whole walls covered with floor-to-ceiling shelving filled with books. I have stacks of books occupying my desk, side-tables, dressers, windowsills, kitchen counters and sideboard. There are books on my washing machine and on the floor.

I need to get rid of some of these!

However, I hate having to put them in the recycling bins. Firstly, I paid money for them. Secondly, someone else might want them. And I hate the whole notion that books are ‘rubbish’.

So I tried to come up with a few ways to reduce my book piles responsibly.

My first option was, of course, ebay. I dusted off an old ebay account and logged on to see other people’s book listings. But lo and behold, I found hundreds of books being advertised that did not sell at all. Even whole crates and boxes of books that nobody wanted went unsold. Not to be deterred, I listed a selection of books for 30p each. And then I waited. And waited. And waited. And re-listed. And waited. Not a single book sold.

My next idea was Amazon. Whenever you look up a book, you have the option to look for a used copy, and there is a link that says “Sell your copy of this book” (or something to the effect). I clicked on it and was informed that I have to register as a seller, which was a bit complicated. Before I launched myself into that, I had a look what the going rate for my stack of example books was. I found out that used copies sell for as little as 1p plus package+posting. Now, I wasn’t looking to make a profit off the books, but it all seemed rather complicated for naught.

Wasn’t there a better way to get rid of books?

Another option was to donate them to the charity shop. My local one has a corner with bookshelves, and I dropped off a large box of paperbacks there. This seemed a good idea, until I sorted through my textbooks and foreign-language novels. I wasn’t sure the charity shop would be able to shift Finar’s Organic Chemistry Vol. II anytime soon (no idea what happened to Vol. I, either). And as I’m currently not in London but live rather rural, the chance of someone looking for German or French pulp fiction was rather low.

Then there is BookCrossing. You register your book at www.bookcrossing.com and release it “into the wild” by leaving it behind in a public place. I thought this was an awesome idea, and it didn’t involve me having to send off books by post in a timely manner (like ebay and amazon would require me to). And it didn’t cost me anything. I reckoned my little local town was not the place to start, so I hopped on a train and happily set about littering the next big city with used books to be found by strangers. I left books in train stations, on park benches (only if the weather was nice), on windowsills and at bus stops. This still left me with the textbooks and the foreign langauge ones, but it was fun. So far, none of my books has been recorded as ‘found’ on the website, so I have no idea whether another reader has found any or whether they ended up being rubbish-collected. In that case I could have just thrown them in the recycling bin myself. Oh well.

(While doing this, I found out that some of the city’s bus lines have swap shelves for books inside the vehicles. How cool is that! Left some there, too)

Then I found a website where you can mooch books that other members offer (www.bookmooch.com). The idea is that you send your copy to someone who wants it, which garners you a point (or 3 if you send to another country). These points can then be spent again by requesting a book from another moocher, who will be awarded a point for sending it to you. Listing a book you are offering awards you 1/10 of a point, so by listing 10 books after you sign up you can spend your first point even if nobody has requested your books yet. I thought it was a fantastic idea, so I enthusiatically signed up a bunch of books. It means lugging them to the post office after all, but this might be the solution to my textbook and foreign language dilemma, since books can be mooched to and from other countries. The website even let me know that several of my books were on other people’s wishlist, and informed them by email that it is available to mooch. However, not one of my books has been mooched so far, despite using the “remind” function on those books that were on wishlists. I don’t know, maybe I’m way late to the party and this website has been dead for years for all I know.

In the end, none of the above proved satisfying, and it seemed a lot of effort to get nothing back in return. Not even the satisfaction of seeing a released book turn up in Glasgow, or have someone mooch a book from Paris.

So this weekend I’ll be lugging Finar’s Organic Chemistry Vol. II to the paper recycling container down the street and be done with it.

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