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By Matt Bodycombe on 18.4.2023

Set those old books free!

I don’t know about you but I am a compulsive book buyer. I like nothing better than to linger in bookshops, particularly second hand ones and normally end up buying far more than I intended on impulse. The availability of cheap books from the internet has only added to the collection. This is all very well but there is the problem of space. It’s great being a hoarder but one soon gets tired of not being able to move for dog eared paperbacks so I was resigned to keeping my core treasures and giving the unwanted pulp fiction away to charity shops (more difficult than you’d think as many are inundated with books and turn donations away).

The answer for me came in book swapping sites: the two most notable being and These sites enable one to upload the titles of books that they have read and no longer need to be browsed by other users. When you see a title that you like, you contact the member and let them know. They then have a look through your stuff and find something that they would like in exchange. Books are easily found via the site’s search engine and you would be surprised at the interest even the most mundane titles get.

There are structures built-in to prevent users abusing the system with readitswapit limiting the amount of books you can swap until you have built up a decent level of positive feedback on the site. The site is also strict about people accepting books without sending anything back in return and will boot you off the site if you abuse the system. If you decide you do not want to part with a book, site etiquette dictates that you send the book back to the person you were entering into exchange with including a book or second class stamps as compensation. The US’s bookmooch site works on a system of points where the more books you send (extra points for mailing abroad) the more you can receive – although there is a policy where you must send one book for every two you receive which I think is a pretty fair system. Both sites mean that you can save hundreds of pounds getting books that you will probably read once and then have no further use for.

Another fascinating social experiment site is . Here you print off a special barcode and release your book into a public place for a curious member of the public to find. You enter where you released the book on the site and the recipient is encouraged to log onto the site and enter the bar code to show that the book has been claimed. Many books have passed through hundreds of hands via the site and again it is a good way of passing on your unwanted books to other owners while enjoying the entertainment of following your old books literally around the world in some cases.

I recommend you check these sites out as you will be saving space, money and trees and they are also kind of addictive. Maybe I’ll be swapping with you one day or perhaps you’ll find one of the books I have left lying around!


  • I do like book swapping sites but I must admit I am reluctant to use the ones operating a “ticket” system. I am worried about lots of my books going out and I get very little in return.
    I used to like (US based) but then they started charging a fee for each swap. There is also (international) who have segregated childrens books from adult books and will only do a one to one swap. No money or tickets or other gimicks.

    By ossi on 29.4.2023

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