Monday, May 31, 2010

Exchange for book site credits

I use several online book-exchange sites (e.g. PaperBack Swap and BookMooch). I find, however, that often my demand for books and my available credits will be on different sites. What would be great is if there was a credit-exchange for these kinds of scrip (like a foreign exchange market). On this new website, users could register their book-exchange site usernames and then put in orders for trading the different types of credits. It could operate on varying levels of trust. In all of the level, the minimum requirement is that the book-exchange sites allow people to transfer credits.

  1. If the credit-exchange was completely trusted, it could provide the settlement, logging into the book-exchange sites and transferring the credits simultaneously. This requires giving the credit-exchange one's passwords to the other sites.
  2. If the credit-exchange was partially trusted it could provide escrow services. Once a trade was matched, the two parties would transfer the credits to accounts held by the credit-exchange. Once both parties had transferred, the credit-exchange would complete the trade.
  3. If the credit-exchange wasn't trusted, the site would just inform the matched parties of the trade details and let them settle it themselves. For this latter to work well, the book-exchange sites would probably also have to provide messaging services and some form of feedback/reputation to discourage reneging.

Surveying the current available book-exchange sites (discounting "swap" sites that don't use credits) the two largest sites do allow transferring credits, so this idea is feasible. And it would be good for the sites involved as it would stimulate more usage (regardless of how the "exchange rate" was). Anyone want to try to set this up? For the economists out there, could you use insider access to data on trades in a clever way?

Book exchange sites
Site Credit price Credits per book Coverage Transferable credits Private messaging Reputation/ Feedback
PaperBack Swap $3.45 1 USA Yes Yes No
BookMooch NA 1 Intl Yes ("smooches") Yes Yes
Bookins $0.60 varies (3-8) USA No (user names hidden) No No
What's on my bookshelf $2.00 varies (1-2) Intl No Yes Yes
Readers United $0.50 varies (5-30) Intl No Yes Yes
Title Trader Yes ($3-4) varies (1-2) Intl No Yes Yes
2swap NA 1 USA No Yes No

Update: After searching the forums of PBS and BM, it appears that there are only a few people who ask for trades, so the market is probably fairly small.