Sometimes a gift is more like a curse. Self-described “cheap” booklover and avid library user Alyssa Lester wasn’t over the moon when she found a new ereader under the Christmas tree last year. “I love my Kindle, but didn’t want to buy one because I would have to start buying books and I don’t have a lot of extra money in my budget for that,” she says.
While searching online for ebook alternatives, Lester stumbled upon the recently-launched website eBookFling.com, which allows readers to lend Kindle and Nook ebooks for a free, two-week period, acting as a secondary media market for literary lovers.
Lester has been swapping books for more than a month and says the site has not only helped her to save money, but has usurped her regular treks to the library for popular titles.
“Have you heard of the Hunger Games trilogy? I read the first book and literally couldn’t wait for the second book and within a few hours, someone had offered to lend it to me,” she says of her experience on the site.
Once a publisher opens a lending period on an ebook title, purchasers of that media are able to share the book once via email. EBookFling has capitalized on this lending period, connecting traders through a credit system: lend a title — earn a credit. If you’re not willing to trade your titles, you can purchase credits for $2.99 which will give you access to the tens of thousands of lenders on the site.
EBookFling adds its name to a growing list of swap, exchange and barter sites designed to link consumers in a virtual trading post, encouraging consumers to seek more value out of goods that would otherwise collect dust.
But what about copyright laws and fair payment to creators of media? George Burke, CEO and founder of eBookFling, says the digitized media space actually has the potential to ensure authors get a fair shake.
“For every copy that gets sent out to somebody, somebody must have purchased that copy, it’s a 1-to-1 ratio. If you ever compare it to the used marketplace, a book could go through 10 turns — sold to one person and then the next — and the author and publisher will never see any dollars except for the initial sale,” says Burke.
Not only does lending allow publishers and distributors to better control content — digital media serves to lower overall prices for consumers as production, storage and distribution costs are greatly reduced in the digital realm.
And it’s not just media up for swap — you can pretty much trade anything on the Web: services, homes, cars, clothes, etc.
Scott Fischer joined swap.com more than four years ago and has made over 40 trades, which cost no more than the price of shipping his goods to other traders. As a movie buff, Fischer now enjoys trading his dusty titles — some of which are 15 to 20 years old — for “new” ones, keeping his kids well stocked in the latest DVD and video game releases.
“Would I rather sell a DVD on eBay and get $7 for it or trade it and get something that I think is just as valuable and that I’ll enjoy more whether it’s money in my pocket or not,” asks Fischer.
For the more adventurous set — Meg Pier has swapped her Boston-area home for international properties using the websites HomeLink and Intervac. In addition to free accommodation — yes, free — Pier says the experience has changed the way she and her husband vacation, creating a network of like-minded travelers around the world.
“We have established very friendly, ongoing relationships with two of the four partners we’ve exchanged with. It’s been a real benefit that you can’t put a price tag on,” says Pier, a freelance travel writer who runs the blog View from the Pier.
However, Pier cautions a home swap may not suit everyone’s travel style. “There are people that just cringe at the idea of someone looking through their underwear drawer. If you’re one of those ‘know thy self’ people, don’t get into something that’s going to leave you a nervous wreck while you’re trying to enjoy your vacation,” she recommends.
Be sure to communicate your expectations and be upfront about your property requirements such as feeding animals, watering houseplants, waste removal. Hide your valuables and take an inventory of your home if nervous about damage or theft.
“Particularly for the first year that you do it, it really is a tremendous impetus to one of the more profound spring cleanings of your life,” Pier says.
Should you want to go the less formal route, try bartering for services in exchange for your own skills. Jerry Hutchinson of visual communications design firm Hutchinson Associates, Inc. worked out an arrangement where he traded website design for nearly $10,000 worth of dental work. “I probably would have gone to another dentist if I could not barter or at least gotten additional estimates. The experience has been good. We are about 95 percent done with his site and about 80 percent with my teeth,” Hutchinson says.
Looking to swap and trade your way to savings? Here are some other sites to get you started:
- paperbackswap.com — hardcover and paperback books
- Relayrides.com — borrow cars from owners in your neighborhood for either hours or days at a time
- homesforswap.com — swap your apartment with other travelers
- The Clothing Exchange — professional swapping service that mediates the exchange of clothing through events
- homeexchange.com — home and hospitality exchanges for travelers