Call Rob McGarry a serial book-trader, which is to say he joined the growing numbers of consumers who choose to save money by trading and bartering books, DVDs, CDs and video games with others online.
McGarry, of Orlando, was tired of losing space in his home to unused collections of DVDs and other media. While he had the option to sell his well-cared for movie discs on sites like eBaby for a few dollars each, he hoped there was a better way, given that he paid up to $20 for each DVD he owned. McGarry chose Swap.com and has been a satisfied online trader since.
"I had over 250 DVDs in 2008, and since then, have whittled it down to 20," said McGarry, a software salesman for IBM. "Essentially, I've traded the DVDs to build up our library of books. And now I trade books for books."
Using online swap sites might allow you to trade that copy of "4th of July" by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro that you've already read for another New York Times bestseller for the cost of postage. Same with the Guitar Hero video game your teenager is so over or that Beatles "Let It Be" CD your roommate gave you in exchange for paying rent late.
Online Joe and Jane Traders are not swapping ripped, torn copies of unpopular titles. For the most part, users are offering media they paid full price for, took care of while they had it and want to give it up for something that carries the same relative value. Selling the same items on sites like Amazon.com, eBay or a local brick-and-mortar music store may yield only a few bucks, while trading online may get you a slightly-used DVD that cost the owner $20 in exchange for a DVD you have that you had also paid $20 to purchase.
McGarry has scored quite some deals. "My wife wanted to read the 'Hunger Games' trilogy (author Suzanne Collins). I was able to quickly get all three books," he said. "I became interested in rock star biographies and have been able to get six such books, Jimi Hendrix, Motley Crue. Additionally I like certain authors -- Dean Koontz, Stephen King -- and I'm able to get their books quickly, easily and cheaply."
Many popular trading sites are limited to books, DVDs, CDs and video games, but expect to see expansion into other areas. For instance, company officials at Swap.com (formerly SwapTree.com) announced recently members should expect the opportunity to trade women's fashion items later this year.
Each site works slightly differently, so choose what works best for you. Some offer the chance for an even swap - book for book – while others allow you to earn points. Generally you will be required to signup and list the items you are willing to offer in exchange. Then you wait for an acceptable offer and cover the cost of sending the item to the person you are trading with, who will cover mailing charges on his or her side.
Swap.com: The site claims you can sign up in as fast as eight seconds and it's true. Once you do simply list the books, CDs, movies and video games up for trade and the site will match you with other members and list what they are willing to exchange in return. Click the "Get Now" button for more information on the item you will be trading and the record of the trader offering it (sending a book in bad condition earns you bad reviews). If both parties accept, the site provides you the address of where you need to send, and you cover mailing costs. Orlando ranks the 14th top city in the nation for local Swap.com members, says the company. Miami is 18th. Always ask about transaction fees. Swap.com charges between 50 cents and $1 per swap.
PaperBackSwap.com: The success of this site has allowed it to move beyond allowing members to swap paperback books to categories of hard backs, audio books and more. List your books, wait for someone who wants one and send it. For every book you send someone you can choose a book to be sent to you from the site's library of nearly 5 million titles. The books you receive are free, you pay for mailing the ones you give to a member. Visit http://www.paperbackswap.com or call 678-802-1922.
BookMooch.com: This site specializes in letting your trade a book for a book using a points system. Each book on your list of books to trade earns you percentages of points and you get a point for every book you send another member, three points if that person lives outside the U.S. Again, you are covering postage when sending. When you "mooch" a free book from another member, you lose a point, two points if the sender lives abroad.
"With [these sites] you can trade a DVD for a book that has a value of $15 or more. That to me is reflective of the value swapping provides," McGarry said. "And getting new books at the cost of shipping and handling is much lower in cost than buying them new."
Daniel Vasquez can be reached at email@example.com, or 954-356-4219, or 561-243-6600, ext. 4219. To see more columns from Daniel Vasquez, go to SunSentinel.com/vasquez.
Check out Daniel Vasquez's Consumer Talk blog for ways to spend your money wisely, use technology to make life easier and keep your family safe and healthy at SunSentinel.com/consumerblog.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun