Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Hello everyone,
Ever since summer vacation ended and I'm back at work, I haven't been as active as I'd like here on the blog. Which sucks, but unavoidable. But today is Labor Day and that means I'm off, so I can finally write this post that I've been meaning to for a while.

What I want to talk about today is #booksfortrade and my personal experiences using the tag to trade books with other readers. Just in case you didn't know, #booksfortrade is a tag on Twitter that people use to trade books and bookish swag items with other people. There's a thread on Goodreads too, but I've only ever traded on Twitter.

How It Works
Basically, people post pictures of books that they want to trade, usually along with their wish list. If you see a book you want and you happen to have a book they want, you contact the person (either through a tweet or direct message), you guys work out a trade, exchange addresses, and a few days later, after you each sent the book, you DM each other the tracking number (which comes standard with the post office's media mail service--the cheapest way to send books through USPS).

Book I got from my first trade
My First Trade
I've been using the #booksfortrade hashtag for a while--I think even before the tag was made. I did my very first trade a little over a year ago on July 2015 and it wasn't through the tag. It was just a random tweet I came across of someone wanting to trade books. I don't remember which book of mine I traded away, but the book I received was a hardcover copy of This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith. I already read the book, but it was through an e-ARC and I wanted a physical copy. The exchange was pretty painless, but I remember being a little nervous because, you know, trading requires trust that the person, a stranger I've never really interacted with on Twitter, will follow through on the exchange.

After that first trade, I didn't trade again until about October 2015 when I came across the actual #booksfortrade tag. I did four consecutive trades without any problems, so I was feeling good. I did make sure to "research" the people I was trading with, though. I scrolled through their profile feed to kind of gauge how often they traded and if other traders are tagging/thanking them for successful trades. So, I went through my "research" with this one trader and thought he's a "safe" trade.

My One Bad Trade Experience (so far)
It turns out this one guy wasn't a good trader after all--at least he wasn't with me.

I mailed the book a few days after we finalized the trade as promised and gave him the tracking number. But, a week and a half later I still haven't heard a word from him. I messaged him on Twitter and he said he'll send it in a couple of days. A week later, no word from him again so I messaged him again and he said he was busy. This went on for a month. Fine, he was busy, which I understood, but he was also trying to do more trades with other people during this time so I guess he wasn't that busy. I was getting frustrated and angry because I mailed the book weeks before and he didn't have the courtesy to mail mine within a couple of days like we initially said we would. I shouldn't have to keep messaging someone to send me the book, especially when he already received the book I mailed him way before he finally mailed me mine. I eventually got the book, but after that I decided to cool off on the trading for a while.

Keep On Trading
That was March. I only started being active on the tag again this summer, after I got back for attending the ALA conference. I brought back quite a number of books, and I didn't have room on my bookshelves to store them so I knew I had to do some major book purging of books I no longer wanted or didn't plan on rereading. I donated most of my old books to my local Friends of the Library, but I held on to a few that I saw on a few wish lists on the hashtag. My sister Leslie went to the conference with me this year, and she grabbed a couple duplicates but with our shelving problems there wasn't enough room for duplicates. Also, I grabbed a few books from the conference that I started reading, but couldn't get into or weren't for me so I put those aside for potential trades too.

Just this summer alone and up to now, I've done about 25 trades (plus a few more pending) and it's been great! I've had no problems so far and I really, really hope this streak of good trades continues because I really enjoy trading.
Some of the books I got through trades.
Why Do I Like Trading
1. #booksfortrade helps me curb my book buying. This time last year I already bought 124 books, but this year (since I've been more actively trading) I bought only 55 books so far. I know it's still a lot, but compared to last year it's a huge improvement and my wallet is happier with me.

2. Related to reason #1: It saves me money. You basically get a book you want for about $3-4 dollars (which is about the cost of the postage). I usually don't have to spend extra money on shipping materials because I recycle padded envelops from packages I receive from stuff I buy from Amazon or other mail.

3. It's fun! I enjoy looking through other people's trades and seeing what they have and people looking through what I have and making trades.

4. I feel good knowing my books are going to people who will appreciate them.

5. It's great helping people complete their book collection. A lot of the traders who use the tag are book collectors and are looking for specific editions or ARCs.

6. I love getting book mail.

#booksfortrade Drama and How I Deal
Until very recently, I considered myself a "lurker" on the tag. That is, I didn't really post pictures of what I have or a wishlist. I just looked through other traders' stuff and tweeted or privately DM'd my interest. But, I weeded my bookshelves again recently and I have a lot of books I wanted to get rid of. So, I finally put a few pictures up with my wish list so people can contact me if they're interested. Then, whatever doesn't get traded I'm going to donate in a couple of weeks.
Some of the books I am currently trading
Yes, there's often "drama" on the tag and there are some traders out there who are sharks and only want the impossible-to-acquire editions or rare ARCs in exchange for their most sought-after editions or ARCs. It leaves us guppies feeling down, because how are we able to compete with that? But, you know what, as with everything, you either make it into a positive or a negative experience. If you're going to use the tag to complain about said "sharks" then you're not going to have a good time. For me, I like the tag and I'm going to keep things as positive as I can on my side. It's sort of an unwritten rule on the tag anyway that if you want a rare/sought-after ARC/edition be prepared to have something rare/sought-after ARC/edition to trade for it. It's just the way it is. Some people do take it a bit too far sometimes and a sort of bidding war happens, but I try to avoid trading with those people.
More books I am currently trading
Okay, that's all I have to say for now about #booksfortrade. If you want me to do a #booksfortrade how-to and a tips kind of post, let me know. If you want to trade with me, you can tweet me and find my wish list HERE.

Happy reading,
Michelle

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