Could your reading appetite be causing greenhouse emissions and the degradation of our forests? Reading is a wonderful pastime, but if you are like many people, your credit card is worn from the amount of books you buy every year. Do you ever re-read your books? I didn’t think so.
The same goes for all those DVDs, CDs, and games you must have lying on a shelf after you played or listened to them enough times. Swapping books, CDs, and DVDs are no longer relegated to flea markets. The online companies below will surely satisfy your voracious appetite for reading without the degradation of our trees or climate.
Still not convinced? Let’s look at some cold hard facts about the paper industry from Co-op America:
- The paper industry is the largest consumer of forests in the Southern US, currently logging an estimated 5 million acres of forests (an area the size of New Jersey) each year. (USFS SFRA, 2001)
- Over 40% of the trees cut in British Columbia are used to produce paper (Markets Initiative, 2001)
- One out of eight animal species in BC is at risk of extinction, according to the BC Ministry of Environment. Logging was identified as one of the primary contributing causes (BC Ministry of Environment, State of the Environment Report 2000).
- Most of the world’s paper supply, about 71 percent, is not made from timber harvested at tree farms but from forest-harvested timber, from regions with ecologically valuable, biologically diverse habitat. (Toward a Sustainable Paper Cycle: An Independent Study on the Sustainability of the Pulp and Paper Industry, 1996)
- The pulp and paper industry is the single largest consumer of water used in industrial activities in OECD countries and is the third greatest industrial greenhouse gas emitter, after the chemical and steel industries (OECD Environmental Outlook, p. 218)1
In regards to our trees’ role in global warming, older forests store more carbon then new trees thereby reducing greenhouse gas concentrations. Every time trees are cut down, they release much of their stored carbon.2
Although the above facts are terrific arguments for the use of recycled paper in the production of books, may I suggest swapping instead? The practice of swapping uses less energy, gives your books a new life, and can create a new community for you to share your reading passions. Here are some ideas:
Swaptree.com: A company specializing in free online multimedia swapping. You can swap books, DVDs, CDs, and games for other multi-media items all for the cost of postage, which can be printed from your computer. There is only a $1 processing fee at the end of the month for the postage that you print regardless of the amount of swapping you do during the month.
Sign up, enter the multimedia items you wish to trade, your wish list, and the computer program shows you what you can swap. (See “How does this Work?” on the Company’s website.) It is the only company that I know of that coordinates third party swapping. You can easily send a book to one person, and an entirely different person sends you a CD that you requested. The Company offers a feedback rating of its senders to keep their members honest. In addition, they get involved if there is a dispute. Currently, swapping is only permitted in the United States. For more information, see my Swaptree Article.
PaperBackSwap.com: This two year old Company has 1.8 million books available for swapping for the cost of postage printed from your computer. Sign up, list 10 books you wish to trade and you get 2 credits for two free books. Although the name suggests that only paperback books are swapped, hard cover books are swapped as well. See the instruction on how to swap your books. There are numerous features on this site. There are member book reviews, NY Times Best Seller’s List for the week, recipes, member forums, and eclectic pen for those who wish to share their poetry, short stories, and essays, just to name a few. See also sister sites, Swap A CD and Swap A DVD. Swapping is only permitted in the United States at the moment.
Bookswim: This Company is a club that rents over 185,000 titles with different monthly fees based upon your reading appetite. The payment plans range from 11 books at one time at a monthly fee of $35.99 to 2 books at a time for the monthly fee of $14.99. After you read a certain amount of the books, you can trade them in for others so you are never without a book. There are no late fees so you can keep the books as long as you want. Postage is free for sending back the books. If you wish to keep a book, you can if a discounted price is provided with the book. Some books can not be purchased, since they are out of print and can not be replaced. The Company only ships to the United States and oversea military addresses
BookMooch: This Company is an international repertoire of free book swapping from countries as far away as New Zealand to the United States. For every book you send to someone, you can get a free book from someone else. You get a 1/10th of a point for every book you put in the system. Your only cost is postage. If you wish to keep the book, you can.
If you wish to give your points to a charity, a free book will be delivered, for an example, to a sick child, library fund, or African literacy charity. In addition, three points are given to those members who wish to send a book to another country to compensate them for their postage. It only cost 2 points to receive a book from outside your country. Just think of the possibilities of receiving books in different languages or books that you would ordinarily never see in your own country. In order to keep people honest, there is a feedback site where you can rate your sender similar to EBay ratings. The website has an extensive statistical listing of number of users, countries participating, books received, and books offered.
What’s On My Bookshelf?: An international book swapping club which allows you to swap books (including textbooks) and DVDs based upon a point system. You start by registering your books, and then can search by author, location, tags, groups, or wish list. For every five books (up to 100 books) you receive a 1 point credit. Books are given credits based upon its new book price. When you send a book, you receive your recipient’s credits for the book. The only cost to this club is the cost of postage. In addition, you can link your Facebook site to your account. If there is a problem, the Company offers to get involved.
ReadItSwapIt: This free swap club is for our UK readers. Similar to all the other sites, you post the books you want to swap, and view the ones being offered by the members. If you see a book that you want, you contact the member. He or she can either accept your swap by swapping one of your books for theirs or reject it if the member does not wish to trade with you. Your only cost is the postage. There is also a forum on the site for readers to connect.
Bookcrossing, This Company’s philosophy is akin to “if you love your unused books, you will let them explore the world.” You register your books on the site, and receive a Bookcrossing ID. Insert the ID and the Company’s information in the book, and then leave your book in a random location like a coffee shop to explore the world. What happens to the book? You will receive an email if someone logs a journal entry about the book on the website. The logging rate is about 20-25% but it is a young site and takes time for people to read as well. When asked why the Company thinks it okay to just give books away, their response was as follows: “Registering your books with BookCrossing.com, then giving them to a friend, a charity, or otherwise releasing them “into the wild” and following their progress and travels, is infinitely more fulfilling than the small satisfaction you’ll get by looking at your books in your bookcase every day. As Austin Powers would say, “It’s karma, baybee!” The website has over 600,000 members from over 130 different countries, and over 4 million books registered.
TitleTrader: This is an international swapping website where you can swap your books, magazines, DVDs, Video games, and CDs for any one of the items. However, if you do not want to send items to different countries, you can note that in your account. The system will automatically filter out these types of trades. You receive points for each item you send. If you find the item that you want, you just request it from a particular member. There is also a feedback system so others can decide if they wish to trade with a fellow member. In addition, you can upgrade to a premium service for $19.95 per year which provides such services as automatic notification when an item on your wish list is available, a newsletter, buddy list bookmark to keep your eye on what your buddies are listing, and more premium services. Postage is printed from your computer to be used to send your swapped items. In addition, there is a forum site on the website to connect with others.
Bookins: Another book swapping company that prides itself on its no fuss service. You basically put in the books you want to trade and they are assigned a point system based on the bar coding on the book. Thus you are trading for the value of the book in the points that you are given rather than a book to book point system. As the founder of the Company describes the company’s point system, “[w]e have this point system on the site where we determine the market value of each book based on the retail price, how popular it is, did Oprah recently recommend it, and other factors.
After, you create a wish list, the Company takes over and sends you your requested book for a flat rate of $4.99. You don’t have to worry about bad traders since they weed them out and do not trade with them. If by chance the book is damaged or lost, the Company will replace it. Unlike many other book clubs, there is no emailing other swappers to see whether or not they will swap. Senders can print free postage from their computers. They even have a theme song! Swapping is limited to the US, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands.
Libraries: How about this novel idea (no pun intended)? Save gas and energy consumed by the shipping of books across the country or world by checking out a book from the public library! It’s free!
So next time you have the urge to click on a website to buy a book, check out one of the sites above. Each less click is one more tree that continues to live.
1“Paper Production and Consumption Facts,” Coop America,
2 “Q & A of on the Environmental Benefits of Recycled Paper”
By Environmental Defense and the Alliance for Environmental Innovation, http://www.coopamerica.org/PDF/QandAPaper.pdf