Save by swapping books

Online exchange helps bookworms to trim costs.

Marilyn Sullivan, of Nazareth talks about www.paperbackswap.com

If you love to read, but don't like the cost of books, Marilyn Sullivan in Nazareth has a great tip for you.

Since 2007, she's been a member of paperbackswap.com, an online book exchange that lets readers share books for the cost of postage. Marilyn said that usually runs about $2.50 a pop.

And don't let the name of the website fool you. Marilyn has received several hard-cover books as well, and even books on tape.

It's not just for takers. To continue receiving books from other members of the exchange, you have to share them as well. That's how you build credits. New members start with two credits, and you earn additional credits each time you share a book with a fellow member. You can redeem credits when you see something you want to borrow.

"It is not limited to paperback swapping," Marilyn said. "Any book, or audio book, can be swapped. I have been a member since 2007 and have saved over $700 so far. I have swapped over 350 books. I have 90 books on my wish list and currently have 22 books I am willing to swap. I also have about 20 books on my 'to-be-read' list."

It's pretty clear that Marilyn loves to read and her hobby could be quite expensive if she relied on the bookstore for all of these titles. She rips through about a book a week, and even more when she's on a "binge."

Marilyn especially enjoys true-crime thrillers and other nonfiction. We asked her what her favorite book is, which is like asking a parent which is their favorite child.

She walks you through some of the particulars about the site in a video you can see at mcall.com/onthecheap.

Marilyn finds it more convenient than the library.

Paperbackswap.com was founded in 2005 by Richard Pickering and Robert Swarthout and has rapidly grown. Pickering used to buy books on eBay and Amazon, which he would read while traveling on business. But he grew frustrated paying for the books, plus handling, plus postage, which inspired the online exchange idea.

Today, paperbackswap has 4.8 million books and it has saved its members $35.3 million collectively, according to the website, which is based in Atlanta.

Marilyn said the exchange is good for obtaining obscure titles not easily found in bookstores. She recently snagged a British true-crime book that is out of print and is hoping to get a hard-to-find Hungarian cookbook.

"As long as you're patient, you'll get them," Marilyn said of the books on her wish list. "I don't know how you do the calculation of savings, but if I continue at this rate I know I will have saved a lot of money in 20 years."

We did some number-crunching in the On The Cheap lab and figure this tip would save you $2,333.33 over 20 years if you read as much as Marilyn does. That would buy a lot of fancy bookmarks.

Send your tips: spencer.soper@mcall.com, 610-820-6694 or P.O. Box 1260 Allentown, 18105

Facebook: Type "On The Cheap" in the Facebook search box and check under pages.

Videos: mcall.com/onthecheap

Save on books

Cheapster: Marilyn Sullivan

Tip: Use online book exchange paperbackswap.com

Estimated savings: $2,333.33 over 20 years

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