Have you ever swapped paperbacks with a friend? Then you've participated in a book exchange, also known as a book swap or trade. Now imagine a website that gives you access to thousands of book-reading friends and keeps track of multi-way swaps so that you can send a book to Thelma, but in return receive a free book from Louise. Now you've got the ultimate book club for readers who don't mind spending a few minutes wrapping up their old books and mailing them out.
BookMooch gives you one point for every book you send, and a tenth of a point for every book you enter into your profile. Most books are priced equally at one point, and subscribers are responsible for the paying the postage for each book they ship. One usual feature here is the ability to request books from other countries, in other languages. When sending a book overseas you'll earn three points (to compensate for the higher postage cost) but getting a book from overseas costs only two points. BookMooch currently has over 500,000 books to choose from.
Bookins (also with an inventory of over half a million books) uses a variable point system, where hardbacks and popular books cost (and earn) you more points than paperbacks. What's different at Bookins is their prepaid postage system. They will email you a shipping label, so all you need to do is print it out, put your book in an envelope (or wrap it grocery bag paper) and slap the label on your book. But this simplicity comes at a price: $4.49 per item. In addition to books, you can also swap DVDs.
LibraryThing is a community of book lovers, and does not directly provide book swapping services. Instead, it is an "easy, library-quality catalog" where you can share what's on your bookshelf and what you're reading with like-minded folks. And on each individual book page, in addition to reviews, ratings, tags, reader recommendations and links to book stores, you'll find a "Swap this book" link. That link will take you to a page that shows which of twelve popular book swapping sites have the book available for trading.
With 3.7 million books available for swapping, PaperBackSwap is the biggest of the online book swapping sites. And their point system is pretty simple: earn a credit for sending a book, use a credit for receiving a book. For shipping, PaperBackSwap provides a printable two-page wrapper that is a both a do-it-yourself envelope and an pre-addressed label. Just wrap your book, add postage, and "pop the book in the mail." You'll need to weigh your book to determine the correct postage, but they advise that most books under one pound typically cost $2.23 to send.
SwapTree is smallish, with 78,000 books currently available, but they also provide a marketplace for trading music CDs, DVDs and video games. SwapTree has done away with points, and simply displays exactly which titles on your want list that you can get for each trading item you list. Sometimes the trades might be one-for-one with a single party. Other times the trades might be three-way, where you are sending your item to one person, and receiving an item from another person.