–Yeah! –Nay!

by Katy on January 12, 2009 · 17 comments



The internet is an incredible gizmo. You can buy your childhood toys back on eBay, watch free movies on, score cool stuff on, and swap your books on

But not every site is a good match for everyone.

I belong to the Portland, Oregon freecycle group, but had used it only once to give away some fondue forks someone was desperately posting for. I had tried to use it a few times here and there, but the moderator was very picky about my listings. (Apparently you can’t just leave your item on the porch for whoever gets there first.)

I though I’d give it another try.

I listed a wanted ad for a cat scratcher for our new kittens. I received one reply from someone not too far away who had a hand-over-the-doorknob type of scratcher who was happy to get rid of one more piece of clutter. I went and picked it up, while batching it with a few other errands.

No fuss, no muss. I think I’ll do it again.

I joined in December after hearing how great it was from countless people. This site site has you list ten books, and you get 12 books in return. Sound good? Well . . . I listed my ten books and almost immediately got a request to mail out a book that was so heavy it had to be mailed at the post office. This meant I had to drive to the post office, (a 15 minute drive) and stand in line for 15 minutes.

Not a fabulous addition to my day. 

Then a huge snowstorm hit Portland and stranded us in the house for two weeks. During this time I got multiple e-mails about how my books were being requested, and paperbackswap only worked because of “the trust of its members.” With the stress of trying to pull Xmas together, while having the kids out of school, these e-mails just about put me over the edge.

Also, not one of the books I was requesting was going to be available any time soon. (I was mostly like number 135!)

So I quit

I also realized that I’m perfectly happy checking my books out from the library. I don’t need a shelf full of books I’ve read once, now gathering dust. I also live within walking distance to a Powell’s book store, which sells new and used books. And most importantly, I can sell books there for store credit. 

In fact, I walked over there today and used a gift card I received as a Christmas present from my mother, and bought used copies of the three books that will most likely start up The Non-Consumer Advocate book club.

No fuss. No muss. I think I’ll do it again.

Do you have websites you can’t live without? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Lala January 13, 2009 at 12:51 am

At the moment, I am a big fan of our local library too, especially as I am undertaking the compact.

If there is a book that I would like to buy and keep, I have found a great website which sells used books called and is called Better World Books

They post worldwide ( I am in Australia) for US$3.97.

They save tonnes of books from landfill each year, and they use some of the profits for global literacy, especially in Africa.

They are very attentive to customer service, and very hip in their communication.

They follow up to make sure that you receive your order.

I love them!


rebecca January 13, 2009 at 1:15 am

Too bad Paperbackswap didn’t work out for you. We’ve belonged for just over a year, and it’s been great. We use it to get books we do want to keep or can’t get from the library. The companion sites for cds and dvds have been great, too.

And I wish I lived near Powell’s, but we do have a nice used bookstore a block away.

A new favorite website is
For those of us who need prescription glasses (not something you can get used) this has been a great site for decent glasses at a very low cost. (I recommend plastic rather than metal if you use them– I did have problems with the paint flaking off the metal.)


Lala January 13, 2009 at 1:23 am

Just clarification from my earlier post re Better World books. Postage within USA is Free!
( anywhere else Worldwide is US$3.97)


Klara LeVine January 13, 2009 at 2:00 am

Maybe if you put it nicely to the moderator how your time is valuable and how in other areas (like ours), leaving stuff on doorsteps works out just fine, maybe he can be convinced.

My problem with freecycle is my guilt when I put out something and loads of people respond and I only have one to give away.

and you have to be very quick – things go fast.


Heidi January 13, 2009 at 4:09 am

For paperbackswap you just need to have a little patience. I’ve done it for years, with great success. It is a nuisance having to wrap books and stand on line at the post office, I agree. I make sure only to list books which won’t cost me a fortune to mail. And when I wish-list books, eventually they come through. I’m not in any rush to get them. Sometimes I change my mind when I do get them, if I’ve read a library copy in the meantime.

A new site I found which I really love is For those times when I have to buy something new (I know many of you on this site are doing the Compact, but I try to be very selective in what I buy), you shop via this site and get a % back. It builds up pretty quick.


Aleeya January 13, 2009 at 5:02 am

I also did not have good luck with freecycle. The moderator in our area had a stipulation that if you want something you also have to give something away. I thought the whole point was for people to help each other get rid of stuff. If I could take something off of someone else’s hands that they voluntarily are giving up, why do I have to give up something of mine? Mind you, this was at a time I didn’t have anything to give. At the present time I could probably stand to give a few things away.


Marcey January 13, 2009 at 6:37 am

Hi Kate,

One of the really cool features of PBS is the vacation hold function, which allows you to keep requests at bay for any period of time if you’re away or otherwise unable to mail. I’ve used paperbackswap to get rid of a ton of books, and like to adventure of having them travel the world (like lol.) I’ve gotten lucky with a lot of patience getting a few harder to find books. (There are a very select few I like to have on my shelf for frequent reference – isn’t it a joy not to be connected to ‘stuff’? 🙂 We also have this twisted thing where our local post office is efficient and has lots of friendly folks manning it (weird – I know) so it’s a joy to hop the bus downtown and take a little jaunt on my lunch time.

As a Freecyle mod, I would note that whatever arrangements you make off-list with someone are your business (winkwink.) So if you post an item, you can certainly email your address to the first respondent (or the 9th, or the person whose nickname you like the best – whomever) and leave it on your porch just for them. We just usually discourage a whole troupe of folks from wasting gas and heading your way only to be disappointed (which is what happens if you send your address to the whole list.)

I’ll look forward to the book club! 🙂

Best from Indiana :).


Jinger January 13, 2009 at 7:02 am

I felt the same about the paperback book swap. I never had enough books to list and found it much easier to put a reserve on books at the library. I usually go to Barnes and Noble and make a list of must reads for myself, then put them on reserve.

A website I cannot live without however is It is very addictive to me and leads me to so many wonderful craft blogs with upcycled or recycled craft ideas.


wendopolis January 13, 2009 at 7:10 am

I belonged to Freecycle when we lived in Bakersfield. It was great–I got rid of so much junk. I haven’t heard of paperbackswap. Might have to check it out.


Rachel January 13, 2009 at 8:29 am

What we do to keep from buying stuff that gathers dust. I am a book hoarder; we moved this summer and all my books ended up the same amount of boxes as the kitchen. The majority of those boxes are still in the garage in a corner. I’ll get to them eventually, most likely around garage sale time.

One thing I don’t like about living near a major city: using websites like doesn’t really work. Or finding mom groups or play groups in a certain area. I can drive 2 hours, which completely defeats the purpose.

I recycle my 2 kid’s clothes by donating them to a mother’s consignment store for store credit. Woo hoo!


Tracey January 13, 2009 at 9:41 am

For video games for my son, Goozex is a great game trading site. You post games you no longer play and request games. This past December my son got about six games all at once so I didn’t feel like I had to buy him any new ones.


Kristen@The Frugal Girl January 13, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Aleeya, that is all kinds of wrong!

Katie, it’s funny that you posted this, because I just posted about Freecycle yesterday. I ADORE Freecycle. I’ve given away so much stuff and I’ve also received some pretty awesome stuff too(like scads of solid wood furniture that I’ve refinished).


ToilingAnt January 19, 2009 at 10:00 am

Tips to getting the most of

*Don’t list books that are so heavy that you aren’t willing to mail them.
*Use the printable postage feature. No more standing in line at the post office!
*Swap credits between all three sites (check out sister sites and My personal strategy is to post and mail CDs for about a dollar (without the jewel case, they’re very light), then transfer the credits to obtain new books and CDs. I have a nice long wish list on both sites and just wait until something interesting comes available. I like the random timing of it all… it’s fun.


Mary N. March 27, 2009 at 2:40 pm

As far as getting rid of my books, I found a great, no-hassle service for that. I use and declutter my space a box at a time. The books ship free if you use FedEx and the barcode is printed off the computer. You can opt to get your money via check or through a Paypal credit. Since my goal is to have less around the house, I wouldn’t want to swap books 10 for 12. Oh, and a big thumbs up for Freecycle. Have a great day!


Leah June 10, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I joined Paperbackswap and was dissapointed. I like to read new books and all the ones that I wanted were never in stock. Also when i signed for the waiting list i was always a low number. Paperbackswap is good if you can read books that are oldish.


Zed June 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

I’m a big fan of paperbackswap. Two things that could have ameliorated your specific troubles with them:

Buy postage/delivery confirmation from PBS at (something like) an extra $.43/package. Because your package won’t have stamps, it won’t need to be mailed at the post office, no matter what it weighs.

You can put yourself on ‘vacation hold’ any time you don’t feel like dealing with any new requests.

(Can’t argue with using the public library and Powell’s though!)


Zed June 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I’m a big fan of paperbackswap. Two things that could have ameliorated your specific troubles with them:

Buy postage/delivery confirmation from PBS at (something like) an extra $.43/package. Because your package won’t have stamps, it won’t need to be mailed at the post office, no matter what it weighs.

You can put yourself on ‘vacation hold’ any time you don’t feel like dealing with any new requests.

And it does take a lot of patience for your wish listing of a recent, popular book to float to the top. But I’m very happy with a lot of things that I actually did finally get through my wish list.

(Can’t argue with using the public library and Powell’s though!)


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