Thursday, April 12, 2012

My (Few) Peeves with PaperBack Swap

First off, let me make it quite clear: I love PaperBack Swap. If you haven't yet signed on with this reader's good friend, let me encourage you to jump all over it. I've gotten lots of used books and shared lots more through this fabulous website.

However. There's something about PaperBack Swap that irks me, and here it is: requestors' conditions.

These are not all bad. In fact, some conditions seem reasonable to me, such as "prefer books that come from non-smoking homes." Questionable style concerns aside (i.e., if a home is smoking, call the fire department), that condition makes sense to me. Another reasonable condition is requesting that puzzle books (or the like) contain all their pieces. Honestly, most people are reasonable with their requestor conditions.

But my lip starts to curl when I read conditions like this (which I've either received or seen in the past):

  • No highlighting or marks whatsoever.
  • No creases or shelfwear.
  • If this book features fill-in-the-blanks or other activities, no erasures whatsoever. Must be completely clean.
  • No names written on inside pages.
  • If the book is hardcover, it must have its dustcover. Dustcovers must be clean and free of creases or rips.
  • No ex-library books.

And that's merely a sampling. Frankly if used-book requestors are this persnickety about their books, they should go to the bookstore and buy them new.

Why do these conditions rankle? First off, my understanding of PaperBack Swap's raison d'etre is to serve as a place where book lovers can swap books for their personal reading pleasure. Second, all PBS members receive requested books for free. I'll say that again: for free. Requestors don't even pay postage; the senders do.

When requestors impose several strict conditions for books they request, I get suspicious. If one requests a book for one's own personal library, why must one insist on such stringent standards for used books? Here's what goes through my mind: perhaps said requestor plans to re-sell these books or use them for some other sort of gain other than merely the enjoyment of reading?

Even if I'm wrong about my suspicions, it still bothers me that some requestors impose such stiff regulations on free used books. I mean, really.

So twice now, I've clicked the little box that reads something like, "This books does NOT meet requestor's conditions." PBS requires members to give an explanation, which will be shared with the requestor, and I've been happy to do so. In fact, both times this has happened to me, I've explained that, although my book DOES meet the requestor's conditions, I'm withdrawing it from consideration due to these reasons. . . (see above).

Catty? Perhaps.

I prefer to share my books with those who want to read them for the pure pleasure of reading. To me, that's the convivial spirit of PBS. In essence, members say to each other:

"You haven't read this? Oh, I have, and it's wonderful. Let me mail it to you. When you've finished, you can send it along to someone else. Or keep it, if you love it!"

I've been a PBS member for years, and only twice have I been irked by requestor conditions. So it's not a huge problem at all. Don't let it stop you from joining, if you haven't already. Membership is free and so worth it!

But do me a favor and make sure your conditions, if any, are not ridiculous. Okay?


  1. Oh, Ellen, now that you've shared some light, I think I have found out something interesting.

    I never went to the page to set the conditions, and those you note I believe are the defaults... once a lady told me that there was some highlighting or underlining inside her copy of When Children Love to Learn, if I still wanted it? Of course, I replied, unbeknownst that she was getting 'my' default conditions.

    I believe there are hundreds if not thousand, as stupid as me, and we never edited that part and we come out as if we were that picky with used books. I still think pbs users are not resellers, but some as you say, could be keeping those conditions to resale, who knows?

    But I have noticed almost everytime I request, I get a request, so though I do not pay for my request, I always end up sending a book and paying a minimum now of 2,60 I believe, for each book. And if you buy credits, granted you find the book you want, it is 3 dollars or close, no?

  2. Overall I agree with you and I also have turned down requests for your exact reasons. But I also think sometimes it's that people are looking to complete collections with out of print books. And then I think that people are trying to re-sell! :-P

  3. Hi Silvia! When I signed up for PBS a few years ago, I had to designate my conditions; they were not automatically added by PBS. In fact, I didn't know I could make conditions, so I ended up with a few smoky-smelling paperbacks. After that, I saw I could limit books to those from "non-smoking homes." Things may have changed since then, but I'd be surprised.

    I think it would be odd for PBS to actually *limit* a member's participation by automatically assigning multiple conditions, thereby disqualifying certain books that don't meet the conditions. It's more likely that PBS would not add anything that might limit swapping activity.

    But these are just my measly thoughts! xo

  4. Rowan, that's a good point about trying to complete collections. I'd never considered that. Even so, my original skepticism remains. ;-)

    Thankfully, these irritating instances are few and far between!

  5. I totally agree with you, Ellen! I get irked every time I receive one of those requests, unless it involves allergies, for the reasons you eloquently outlined. The purpose of a paperback SWAP surely is to read and then swap the book. If it were called Paperback Collectors, then that would be a different story. One time I received a book, read it, then plugged it back in the system within a month. I was *astonished* when I received a nasty complaining email from some woman stating I was putting substandard books in the system because this one had water stains on it. I had seriously not even noticed. I read the words; I was not looking at the quality of the the paper. I told the woman as much and said that if she returned the book and my credit, I was happy to take it back. Never heard from her again. GRRR.


I love reading comments! And I appreciate the time you take to leave them. Thanks!