You know that latest John Grisham or James Patterson popcorn thriller you bought for a plane trip? How does trading that paperback for a copy of Malcom Gladwell’s latest strike you? Maybe a hardback copy of Barack Obama’s The Audacity of Hope?
The folks at PaperbackSwap.com reckon that’s a fair swap since each party has something the other wants. There really isn’t a catch. Each party pays to mail their book to the other. Create a wish list a la Netflix, rate some books you’ve read and post books you’re willing to send someone.
The system is bulletproof with lessons learned from many predecessors. Posting is as simple as entering the ISBN. An image and specs automatically appear. User ratings and reviews automatically populate the listing. If the book matches another member’s wish list, the first member in the queue gets to request the book in 48 hours.
Everyone gets plenty of notification emails, the system prints out the shipping list (even substituting your return address if desired) and a book credit is given when the requester acknowledges receipt. Rather than donating books the used bookstore didn’t take back, I’ve swapped my pass-alongs for books on business, web development and a novel I wanted.
Why is PaperbackSwap disruptive?
Take a look at the chart. More than half of the site’s visits are made by 7% of the visitor count according to Quantcast. The management team learned user experience from past successes and misses.
- Relevancy and real-life ease of use from Netflix.
- Simple posting from eBay.
- Ubiquity and long tail from Amazon.
- Rating books and members from Epinions.
I was impressed with my first visit and quickly became an addict as defined by Quantcast. The idea of reading a book and giving it to someone who also wants to read the book is terrific. The 1 to 1 exchange rate is simplicity defined.
There might be a few minor quibbles with the site’s design. We might have done some things differently, but the basic fundamentals are sound. Those thousands of book addicts can quickly elevate PBS into a major book site. The publishing industry is as safe as it was before the site launched, and no single site is going to mess with Amazon, but just as Netflix chased Blockbuster and Wal-Mart from the DVD-by-mail space, PaperbackSwap is going to grab a chunk of market share in yet another example of how the Internet flattens distribution.
The selfish part of me says join already because membership is free. You can help me out by joining on my link. If you become active, eventually posting 10 books, then I get 1 too. More importantly, though, you’re going to get a sweet deal. After mailing over a dozen books, I am paying an average of $2.50. I can’t buy a good used paperback for that, much less a nice, new hardcover. So look left, click to join free and get some free reading material too. Meanwhile, take a lesson from these folks. They grabbed what was good, applied the lesson to their business model and grabbed thousands of members right out of the chute.