Online Reading Communities: PaperBackSwap Reviewed

The Education Techie writes about tools that can help students and teachers. This week, the Techie is reviewing online reading communities. Today's review: PaperBackSwap.

paperback swap logo

What Is It?

PaperBackSwap (PBS) is an online trading post for used books. Though the name might seem to indicate otherwise, this site allows users to trade hardcovers and audio books as well. The system for trading is referred to as a 'club,' and there are some community and social networking aspects of the site. These aspects include member forums and reviews for books. Overall, though, it is pretty utilitarian and focused on providing a forum for users to trade used books and purchase new or discounted books.

The PBS network, much like other online reading community book trading services, works on a system of points that are earned by offering and spent by getting. To start out, members list books that they are willing to give away. These books must be in good condition, and specific guidelines for what this means are provided. New members can get two points toward receiving books for posting their first ten books to give. Giving a book away gives members one point, and requesting one takes one point - it works the same way for audio books, except that audio books are two points each.

Users don't need to pay to join or to get points, but they do need to pay for shipping the books to other users. The site tracks how much users have saved by swapping books instead of purchasing them brand new, but that tracker doesn't include the cost of postage. On the whole, though, the cost of postage seems negligible compared to the cost of a brand new book.

book trading club

What Are Its Pros and Cons?

PaperBackSwap is less cleanly designed and a bit harder to navigate than some of the other reading communities I looked at for this series. The interface for doing things like entering in your own books isn't very aesthetically pleasing, but it is fairly simple to use. Users are also given very clear instructions on how to work the system, and that is a definite plus.

This site has a much larger inventory than similar reading communities that I reviewed. The fact that PBS accepts a wider range of books, including audio books and textbooks, likely has something to do with this. If you were to make a decision on which reading community to join based on inventory size alone, this would probably be the one to go with. However, the fact that there are more books in this site's inventory is no guarantee that everything you want will be available.

In addition to having a wider range of books, PBS also has two sister sites for similar online trading. One,, is for CD exchange. The other,, is for trading DVDs. These operate under a similar system to the book swapping service, so if you like the way that works, you might try the other sites. Neither sister site, though, has the impressive membership or inventory of PaperBackSwap. Outside of book trading, PBS doesn't seem to have as many quizzes and activities as some of the other online reading communities I reviewed.

This is the final review in a series about online reading communities. Previously, the Techie reviewed Goodreads, BookMooch and NetGalley. Stay tuned for more reviews from the Education Techie!

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