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Tricks of the Trade

A few words about trading books on BookCrossing
by bcsupportteam
January 24, 2006
Right there on the home page of BookCrossing, our founder, Ron Hornbaker, says:
You've come to a friendly place, and we welcome you to our book-lovers' community. Our members love books enough to let them go—into the wild—to be found by others. Book sharing has never been more exciting, more serendipitous, than with BookCrossing. Our goal, simply, is to make the whole world a library. BookCrossing is a book exchange of infinite proportion, the first and only of its kind.

First and foremost, BookCrossing is a site about tracking books that have been released into the wild. Some members choose to add releasing to select spots, or BookCrossing Zones, and still others love the big "T"--book trading. We do not discourage any avenue that promotes sharing books, but want to remind everyone that it is an individual member's choice whether they participate in any activity, including wild releasing. It is not mandatory that every book on a shelf be released; some may be destined to become part of a permanent collection.

Because there has been a bit of confusion on this subject of late, we thought we might suggest some guidelines for sharing or trading books. No hard and fast rules, here, just suggestions to help keep harmony in the BookCrossing neighborhood.

In general, if you receive unsolicited requests for books from someone, whether you know them well or have never "seen" them before, remember you do not have to send books just because someone asks. If you feel at all uncomfortable with the situation, whether it's the wording of the message, the specific books requested, the cost of postage, the terms of trade (if any) offered, or just the "vibe" in general, simply say "sorry, no" and, if you like, "please don't contact me again". Alternatively, you can choose not to reply at all, of course, but if you ask them not to contact you again and they do so anyway, you can report them to BC Support for harassment. (We're not encouraging people to take this step lightly but this site does not want its members deluging each other with unwanted messages and will step in if it's reported.)

If you do decide to send/trade/ask for books, it's perfectly reasonable to do a little homework. First check their shelf to see if they trade. Most people who are willing to trade state so on their profiles. Look at their bookshelves to see if they've received any books from other BookCrossers - and, possibly more significantly, if other BookCrossers have received any books from them (via trade or catches in the wild). The "releases caught" number will indicate books that someone else has journaled. While the raw stats don't always give an accurate picture of a member's "dependability" regarding trades and such, they can sometimes give you a better feel for a potential trade. Additionally, if you read the person's journal entries and their forum posts (if any), that may also help you decide whether you're comfortable sending them books or not. If in doubt, it's also perfectly okay to post a (politely-worded) question in the Book Wishlist forum, asking whether anyone else has traded with thus-and-such - if the person has had good dealings with other BookCrrossers they'll probably let you know. If you get a lot of replies saying "Hey, s/he asked me for books too!" then at least you've all been warned!

If you do receive a request for a trade from someone you don't know and decide to go through with that trade, you can always stipulate that you will send the book out just as soon as the other book (or postage, or wings, if that's what you agreed on) is received. No harm done with that - the other person can always drop the trade request if they don't like the conditions. It's nice to be able to trust, but often is wise to be careful.

Many folks new to the site come here thinking it is a good place for free books. When we get questions in Support such as "how do I get books that I want/need/have to have right now for x, y or z" we often respond with a general note back, welcoming the newbie to BookCrossing, and letting them know we are a site about tracking books released in the wild. We suggest they check out our Frequent Questions and TexasWren's wonderful site. We suggest they wander the forum, (particularly Newbies and Introduce Yourself) to get a better feel for BookCrossing. We explain that not all members wish to trade books and suggest that before sending a PM for a book, they 1) have something on their shelf to offer in trade and 2) look at a member's profile to verify that they do trades.

Hopefully, this brief introduction will help clear up a few of the questions that have come up recently regarding this aspect of BookCrossing etiquette.

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