Help me format my forthcoming book-exchange website
August 8, 2004 6:07 AM   Subscribe

DirectActionMicroCharityFilter: So I stumbled on this link and this link at craigslist. Then just above it is this link.

And then I think about the massive pile of books I need to go through and that I probably need to thin the herd - but I also think about the fact that most of the children's books I have are sentimental family gifts I'd be loath to part with for that reason alone, but certainly not any material value. (They're well-loved books, of course.)

And then I think about keeping this sort of thing in mind when I'm trawling thrift stores and garage sales.

And then I think "Hey, that'd make a great website! A place to exchange books! Locally even! Or a data-mining app that would automatically attempt to find matches!"

Punchline inside.

First, sorry for the huge post. Had to get the hook in there. And yeah, I'm hijacking AskMefi for a discussion question. I love these things, and have a few other "active social awareness" ones I'd like to do. Besides, the tone here is usually just 1000x more helpful than stuff in the blue.

So anyways. Next, of course, I Google. And I find The Global Book Exchange. Anyone have anything positive or negative to say about the GBX?

It seems to me that even the $10 dollar door fee, or shipping cost X 2 + $10, is a barrier to transferring the books around. Plus, books are extremely heavy and costly to ship, store, handle, and then ship again. This is not a problem to suited for a centralized physical architecture.

Why not a website to arrange direct transfers? Does anyone want this idea? Take it and run with it, I'm not a developer. I could probably find hosting, if needed.
posted by loquacious to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
Response by poster: Sorry, that second link is here.
posted by loquacious at 6:16 AM on August 8, 2004

Is this a question? I'll address your "why doesn't this exist?" question then. Are you looking for a way to get rid of extra books, or a way for people who want books for free to find those specific books they're looking for? At some level the barrier to "free" is always going to be postage unless the people are right in the community. I know of some local type initiatives that already do similar things: -- free lending library by post that also accepts donations.

Freecycle -- set of regional mailing lists where people post things [incl. books] that they are getting rid of and/or things they want.

Public library -- combined with interlibrary loan this is basically how the library works as long as you don't mind giving the book back when you're done. We'll also take books off your hands for you if you donate them to the weekly book sale where we'll sell them to others for less than GBX's fees.

As a book professional [i.e. librarian] my feeling is that used books have either very little value [as things to read and keep around and move from house to house] or high value [as collectibles to be kept in glass cases and admired from afar] and rarely anything in between. They're good for commerce because what might be your "massive pile of books" that you don't want might include someone else's collectible and some third party can make a buck arranging that transaction. However, I know very few people who are either voracious readers who also need specific books or, alternately, burdened with large amounts of books that they absolutely positively can't get rid of. There is always a way to get rid of books you don't need, even here in the boondocks.

The hassle factor that people are willing to go through to deaccession books is probably also a hurdle to a webapp like the one you describe. You already are burdened by your books, is there a snowball's chance in hell that you'll enter each one into a web site just so you can give them away for free? If so, maybe you need to try bookcrossing. It seems to me that one of the best things you can do is make people aware of the vast book trafficking network that already exists, not start up one more truck stop on the book superhighway. It's an information flow problem, not a programming problem.
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 AM on August 8, 2004

I ♥ bookcrossing.
posted by bonehead at 7:42 AM on August 8, 2004

my feeling is that used books have either very little value

I assume you're talking only financial value here?
posted by rushmc at 9:55 AM on August 8, 2004

It's an information flow problem, not a programming problem.

This sounds like a job for a CueCat (or other barcode reader) and a massive publication database.
posted by weston at 2:27 PM on August 8, 2004

Come to Baltimore, we have the bookthing. Doesn't really answer your question, but it is fucking awesome
posted by Grod at 5:41 PM on August 8, 2004

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