Idea for mooch ratio change

November 17, 2007

I’m thinking of changing the mooch ratio requirement from 5:1 to something much more strict, like 2:1.

The reason, is that I’m seeing a small number of people put massive inventories in, and then being about to keep pretty awful mooch ratios, because they have the points to do so from having listed so many books.

I don’t want to penalize honest moochers who send a lot of books internationally, so I was thinking of changing the mooch ratio calculation to give you 2 mooch ratio points for each book sent internationally. That way if you send out one book internationally, you can mooch two books and still have a 1:1 ratio.

This problem will get worse when big used book stores want to use BookMooch.

What got me thinking about this is my receiving today an email from a web-based used book store who wants to put their inventory of 75,000 books into BookMooch.

That would give them a massive number of points (7500 points), and allow them to get 5 books for every 1 they give away, under the current system. I don’t think that’s a good thing.

Changing the ratio requirement to 2:1 would largely close that loophole, while not punishing people who send internationally who have a slightly poor ratio under the current calculations.


107 Responses to “Idea for mooch ratio change”

  1. Michael said

    Have you thought about scaling the ratio based on the size of your inventory (or number of books ever listed total). For example, keeping 5:1 if you’ve listed under 100 books, 4:1 from 100-499 books listed, etc. etc.

    Just something to consider. Either way, it doesn’t bother me since I have a .5:1 ratio. I’m just glad Bookmooch is around for me to be able to unload old books I have on someone who wants to read them.

  2. I agree that it makes sense. Though maybe a different ratio for retailers; or a ceiling, or a shifting ratio – the more books you list, the ratio changes, to prevent abuse.

  3. Helen Simer said

    Your idea seems like a plausible, low-key way to keep someone from taking advantage of our great trading club.
    I had been feeling uncomfortable because my ratio had gotten to 1.3:1. (I’d like to be right at 1:1) There doesn’t seem to be anything to do about it except not mooch for a while until more of my books get requested. (Hey, out there! check out my inventory!) Another thought would be that real, right, regular moochers will benefit from those 75,000 books. πŸ™‚

  4. Yoav said

    Another way to do that is to demand that bookshops and professional booksellers identify themselves as such (or automatically tag users with more than – I don’t know – 500 books maybe), and not award them points on adding books to inventory – or make it 1 point per hundred books added etc…

    I think this could be better.

    As someone who lives in Israel, I don’t think I would’ve got so many books from international sender if they didn’t got 3 points per book and only 2 – So I’d rather see it stay at 3 point for an international mooch.

    In any case, If you decide to do it – I believe you should do it gradually – > changing to 4:1 first then 3:1 and eventually if you think the problem is still there to 2:1

  5. Michael’s idea is interesting.

    I completely understand why you’re thinking that a tweak to the ratios might be needed as larger and larger inventories go up… will be watching to see how this goes. Thanks as always!

  6. angela said

    I agree with Michael. It seems like the most suitable solution. πŸ™‚

  7. Lethe said

    Interesting (and important) question. Also note that big businesses also will earn lots more points by acknowledging receipt of books that they mooch.

    If you are going to tighten up the ratio requirement, the issue of moochers with lots of international activity needs to be addressed. How about basing the ratio on *points* earned by sending & spent by mooching, rather than book I/O. Under the current system, a member who sends all books internationally, but does all mooches domestically, would have a ratio of 3:1, but if the ratio is based instead on points from mooching and sending, then their ratio would be 1:1, which I think is a truer reflection of their activity and participation. And I think this handles the concerns of allowing a stricter ratio in order to rein in large stores, yet at the same time not hindering international mooching.

    I also like the idea of some sort of sliding scale that comes into play with those huge inventories, but do you do some sort of logarithmic scale? some sort of cutoff based on inverse of inventory size? where do these variations kick in? Definitely something to think about though.

    Thanks again for all your thoughtful effort and just plain hard work !!

  8. Mart said

    This would become a major obstacle for people living in countries where 1) Bookmooch is used by very few people and 2) books in English are not generally available (and BM is a wonderful way of getting them). This is what my situation is like (Estonia). International mooches are the only kind of mooches that exist for me, because there are only about 10 BM users in this country. And I am sure that next to no-one would send any books here for just two points a piece. Another thing is that I have been getting half of my points from barter trades, because I just don’t have all that many English books to put in my inventory. There’s no way of picking them up anywhere $1 a piece or anything here. And books in other languages (I have more in Swedish, for example) attract only very limited interest. A 2:1 ratio would paralyze my ability to do anything with the points I get from occasional CD trades.

    I understand the reasons for your concern, but I really wish I could go on using BM in the future, so I hope there’s an alternative way of solving this problem.

  9. Mark Williams said

    I totally agree John, a 2:1 ratio, or maybe 2.5:1 (as I have seen some newer members hover between 2:1 and 2.5:1) would still be very generous.

    Adjusting the ratio to reflect international requests is also a very good idea few will object to.

    I also think 1000 books or so is a reasonable inventory limit for new members, expandable later if needed.

    Taken together, these limits would discourage inventory padding and ecourage the listing of books more likely to be mooched by the community.

  10. Wait, do you get mooching points just for _listing_ a book with BM, or when you actually _send_ a book to someone?

    If you get points just for listing a book, then IMHO the system is inevitably going to be open to abuse. I can list all the crappy books I have and then mooch good ones with the points I get.

    Perhaps listing a book should give you a small fraction of points, like 1/10th of a point and you get the balance 9/10ths worth of points if someone mooches the book from you. This still wouldn’t defeat people abusing the system by listing a large library of undesirable books, but it at least makes it less worthwhile to list a bunch of undesirable books just to get points to mooch with.

    I can envision someone gaming the system by listing tons of books they don’t even own but those which nobody is likely to ever mooch from them just to accumulate points to start mooching desirable books.

    Book mooching arbitrage. Yow.

  11. Ellen said

    Just for myself, I like the idea of getting 2 mooch ratio points (but still 3 points) for sending internationally, since I do that pretty often and that’s the reason I’ve received more books than I’ve sent. My ratio’s still under 2:1, though, so I don’t have particularly strong feelings about this.

  12. mgpb said

    When I first joined bookmooch, I thought the 5:1 ratio might be a problem — but after being active for nine months, I find I’m only hitting a 1.09:1 ratio (approximately 200 books in and out).

    I would therefore suspect that a 5:1 ratio is VERY generous, and a lower limit would not actually be a problem except for new moochers with listing points burning a hole in their pockets.

    Speaking of listing points, I think this could be refined very usefully. Currently you get 0.1 point per book listed. I would suggest a change, as follows:

    Listing a book is already beneficial to you (as if you don’t list it, you can’t have it mooched and earn a point). My suggestion is that simply LISTING a book with NO CONDITION notes gets 0.0 points (ie, no points) — the benefit is simply in your having a bigger inventory. HOWEVER, if you add CONDITION NOTES to your listed book, you get 0.1 points. People who always add condition notes will see no difference. A bookstore adding 75000 books will get ZERO points for simply bulk adding an inventory. If they care enough to add condition notes to 1000 books, then they get 100 points (0.1 point per book).

    Frankly, I’ve been burned so many times now by people who don’t list condition notes that I’m forced into specifically asking at each mooch about condition if there are no notes.

    Condition notes are a good thing, and I would suggest the above change to strongly encourage their use.

  13. Rena said

    As someone who lives abroad, I think it is very important that you get points for listing books. Otherwise there is no incentive. When I first started Bookmooch I had to list 20 books in order to get 1, but that’s good for everyone. And what’s funny is that some of the books I put up were very old and nothing I thought anyone would ever read and some books/authors I had never even heard of – and those were the ones that were mooched first!!! One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. That’s what is so important about Bookmooch. I have mooched almost double the amount of books that I have sent out, and yet, I am still only at 1.93:1. But it costs me a lot more to send out each book, since almost every book i have sent out has been international and that will continue to be the case. I think 2:1 is fair – and getting more mooch ratio points for being international makes sense.

  14. john A-M said

    My ratio is 1.4:1 which means zero to me. However this reflects that as being in the UK the majority of my swaps are oversea. The majority of these are from the USA where I have to mooch two books which further distort the ratio figures?

    Looking at the raw figures it looks like for every one book I have sent I have/will received just under 2 so the changes as suggested with the protection for overseas swaps would seem to work.

    However would this hold back new members? I remember the 5.1 enabled me to quickly build up swaps given the time periods of mooching from USA and then mooching internally with the points

  15. Myrna said

    I would like to see used book dealers at least be made to indentify them selves. I would have no problem with a stricter point system, it is quite generous now. What ever works. I would worry a little that such a large inventory means that they have books that are not selling and want to dump them.

  16. Marshall Stowe said

    I think this is a very important question not so much for the ratio, but for commercial entities taking advantage of the system. I have no issue with the commercial entities being here, but as pointed out they will have large inventories, lower shipping costs and less handling issues than individuals.

    I would think it fair, if they were identified as commercial entities rather than individuals and that individuals have the option of not giving books to commercial entities. Additionally, I think commercial entities should not get points for listing inventory, although acknowledging receipt might still be beneficial.

    For myself, I have found shipping Internationally to be expensive and troublesome, but I like the ability of getting and sending books that may not be available in one’s own country. An incentive should be given to reward individual and businesses who do this.

    My own current ratio is .8 to 1 and I never really give it any thought. I have books I am willing to share listed and books I want listed. The system works for its simplicity, I don’t like the feeling that I must get one book for every book I send out. Rather I like feeling that books I will never read again get to someone who will appreciate them, other than a used bookstore and that books I want, but don’t feel like I must have, I can get from individuals who want to pass them along.

    Just one person’s opinion. I do truly appreciate the thought and concern you put into the operation of this site/service.

  17. Rosie said

    I like the current ratio. I don’t pay much attention to the mooch ratios when I mooch from someone, so I’ve never noticed any taking advantage. I’ve so far sent out almost twice as many books as I’ve requested. When I’ve told people about Bookmooch, they seem worried at first, but then when I tell them they can mooch 5 books for every 1 they send out, they seem relaxed, less worried and remark on how it’s “good” and “fair.” It’s not something I think of, I’m happy with the service I’m getting and I don’t look at people’s bios and exclaim, “They’re mooching too many books!” I haven’t yet heard anyone complain of being affected by someone mooching more books than they send. I think it’s rather unfair to judge these things on how likely it is for a book to be mooched. My brother gave me some books he was happy to give away, and as they’re not of interest to me I thought it unlikely anyone would want them but they did! I like Bookmooch for the reason that if someone asks if I can find a rather obscure book then it’s possible someone has it. If we all are discouraged from not placing books that aren’t as popular as others in our invetories then we’ll end up with a large selection of Richard&Judy book club books, and no hidden treasures that someone somewhere may want.

    If the ratio is changed, I may have to think again about my activity on Bookmooch as I feel it’s pretty strict, and will stop me mooching as often. A shame that just when I start getting into BM fully, something like this comes up. 😦

  18. Taz said

    If the ratio is changed, what will happen when books already in the system are removed? About half of my books are currently listed on an alternate site – first request, first served.

    I’ve got alot of books listed and still more in boxes to post. I may be in the minority, but I don’t feel its right to change the terms of BM after the fact. Due to the number of books I have, I sometimes spend more time than the average member searching for a requested book which has become elusive. Changing the terms would discourage me from listing others. Frankly, I have so many that I have started adding extra books in a package when possible, just to get them out of the house.

    In listing my books, I tend to be quite the opposite of what mgpb said. My descriptions are pretty detailed on what problems a book has. Therefore, if nothing is listed in the notes, a book is in very good/like new or possibly even new condition.

    The problems I’ve encountered aren’t with those with many books listed – it is with those who post a small number. They receive their books, then fail to ship the requested ones out.

  19. Ali said

    I would be wary of allowing businesses to participate. Personally, I’d like us to have access to the big inventories of professional booksellers. But as a former compliance officer, I should give you a heads up that it might cause issue with the tax regulators who often consider bartering a legal transaction subject to taxation. As long as it’s voluntary individuals in a private lending club it is probably OK; but let registered businesses participate and the state bureacrats will likely quash a good thing. To be safe, you may want to run it by a tax lawyer. – Just one govt-fearing libertarian’s point of view.

  20. Mary Ann said

    I guess I am confused as to why an international shipment would affect the ratio? Isn’t one book sent internationally still just one book? Does the ratio calculate the points a user receives (3) for sending an international book and treat that as 3 books sent? Why would that make a bad ratio? Wouldn’t that make their ratio better? I looked at the ration calculation page on the site an could still not figure this out. But, I am all for limiting the ratio to 2:1 across the board. This would limit the users who load up with books, then go “on vacation” permanently.

  21. chartreuse said

    PLEASE don’t change the mooch points from 3 to 2 for international mooches! In Canada, it’s only worth it for people to send to me or me to send to them because of three points. If I don’t get the three points (and can’t give the three points) then it stops being worth it to participate in bookmooch. PLEASE don’t change the points value; this will kill international mooching.

    Change something about the 0.1 points per book — why do we need to get any points for listing at all? If the idea is to encourage new users to start mooching, then cap it at 100. Once you’ve listed 100 books (and gotten ten points) then you no longer get the book-listing-bonus any more. That’s easy enough.

  22. Stephen du Toit said

    I totally agree with Michael on this one – scale it according to the size of inventory. Could be really simple too, because I would guess that the proportion of moochers with over 500 books is very small indeed (2%?). As someone who has sent many books abroad and found many I want at home, I struggle to keep my ratio below 2:1, and would feel rather grumpy for being penalised because I send abroad a lot!

  23. chartreuse said

    Oh. Two “mooch ratio” points. Not two “bookmooch” points. (?) I didn’t read your original post carefully enough, I think. Oh well, thanks for the great site anyways. πŸ™‚

  24. jonpile said

    It’s difficult to review this kind of proposal without seeing some of the numbers that lead you down this path in the first place. For instance, what percentage of users maintain a ratio higher than 2:1?

    I won’t let the absence of data stop me for long, however. πŸ™‚ Consider the following proposal…

    The 1/10th point per listing is useful mostly for a new moocher – if you can list a few books, you could have a point or two to mooch with on your very first day at BookMooch. This definitely sets up a positive feedback loop. But this 1/10th point also seems to be the most worrying mechanism for driving up a mooch ratio. As a secondary effect, it creates an incentive to list books that will probably never be mooched – which is what makes the used book dealer so worrying.

    Suppose you cap the 1/10th point “listing bonus” at (say) 5 points for the lifetime of the account? This way, there is no visible difference to the casual moocher. Past the fifth mooch, they will have to pretty much send out a book for every one mooched. And it doesn’t require you to write or document any special-case code to handle ratios for international mooches.

    The feedback bonus, and the international-sending bonus, should hopefully generate enough new points that keep the economy flowing smoothly. With the advantage that those bonuses only reward _sending_ books.

    Listing books is still encouraged, because without an inventory you can’t earn points by sending out books. And it should actually encourage users to list only “useful” books – there would no longer be any incentive to list a dud that will just sit in the Inventory for years on end.

    (I can picture an inventory vitality/aging report that analyzes the length of time books sit in inventory before being mooched…my guess is that there are a lot of books that are immediately mooched, and a lot more that lurk in inventory forever, and very little movement in between)

    Good luck either way!


  25. Trish said

    From the beginning I thought the 5:1 ratio was very generous, but then I also thought most BookMooch fans were people like me: private individuals not connected with the book trade (except by buying books) who joined as much to find home for books we no longer want as to get books (don’t get me wrong, I love getting books in the mail as well). In this case, the generous 5:1 ratio is pretty benign. But if book dealers are signing on, that’s a whole different ball game. I’ll keep sending books worldwide no matter what the points; I like the International bookish “handshake” this grants. (It is nice getting an extra point or two for doing so though–makes up for the significant extra expense; but I’d do it even if I didn’t get that). Thanks for this site John, and all the work and thought you put into it!

  26. Trish said

    From the beginning I thought the 5:1 ratio was very generous, but then I also thought most BookMooch fans were people like me: private individuals not connected with the book trade (except by buying books) who joined as much to find home for books we no longer want as to get books (don’t get me wrong, I love getting books in the mail as well). In this case, the generous 5:1 ratio is pretty benign. But if book dealers are signing on, that’s a whole different ball game. I’ll keep sending books worldwide no matter what the points; I like the International bookish “handshake” this grants. (It is nice getting an extra point or two for doing so though–makes up for the significant extra expense; but I’d do it even if I didn’t get that). Thanks for this site John, and all the work and thought you put into it!

  27. Ben Brophy said

    Lowering the ratio would be an excellent idea. As bookmooch grows I’m sure there will be more individuals trying to game the system.

  28. Aaron said

    I prefer a max mooch ratio of 2:1 over 5:1. Even 2:1 is very generous when we’re talking about hundreds of books.

    Lethe makes a really good point that the mooch ratio limit and the points systems are confusing, especially for international transactions.

    People think that if they give one book (internationally), then they should be able to mooch three (domestically) because of the points system. But if the mooch ratio max drops to 2:1, then those people may start to feel cheated (because they earned points that they’re not allowed to spend).

    Another slightly different approach that might simplify things would be to cap the (mooch – give) value at something like 5. Another way to look at it is to start people off with 5 free points (maybe after their first confirmed give), and let the point system do the rest (no need to limit mooch ratios).

  29. Amanda Connor said

    I think changing the ratio is a great idea. I also liked the idea of giving points for listing ONLY if there are condition notes added.

  30. John said

    I like Michael’s “ratio based on inventory size” idea and MGPB’s “only give points when there are condition notes” (although I suspect the condition notes might be easy to abuse programatically).

    I think simplicity is an important consideration – the rules should be easy to understand for *everyone* using bookmooch (not just the numerate people!). Some of the above suggestions, while mathematically sensible, aren’t likely to be widely understood.

    IMO, community participation is one of the best aspects of BM. Having easily-understood policies enables that participation.

  31. Trcia Alexander said

    I agree that 5:1 is overly generous. 2:1 seems like a good idea. I also would like condition notes to be a requirement for receiving points.

    I am bothered that used book stores are using BM. I like to think of Moochers as individuals not as commercial enterprises looking for a dumping ground for unwanted volumes.

    This is a wonderful site and I hope to enjoy many more years of Mooching.

  32. Bill said

    I think the better way to do it is simply close the loophole for massive inventories of old crud nobody wants. Only give the 1/10th point credit for the first 100 books posted. That would give a nice 10 credits to let people mooch something to get started, but not create a problem where a big bookstore can list their junk books and skim everything good for resale, without actually spending much $ shipping anything out. This also encourages people to list books people actually have wishlisted instead of junk.

  33. Brian said

    What about just capping the number of points an account can get from merely posting books to 3?

    That way you incentivize each accont holder to list at least 30 books, but stores who have huge libraries won’t automatically be able to request lots of books when their own inventory might not be what people want (i.e. low usage).

  34. Michael said

    Maybe the way to deal with the problem of the 75-kilobook inventory is to stop awarding 0.1 point once the number of unmooched books in the inventory exceeds a certain amount. As I see it, the point of those 0.1 point increments is to let people “get started” in the system.

    Even if you don’t use a cutoff, you could make the posting reward scale with the order of magnitude of the inventory size—say, 0.1 points for < 100, then 0.01 points for 100-999, then 0.001 points for 1000-9999, and so forth. With that system, the 75-kilobook account would have 34.5 points from entering books, which is perfectly reasonable in my view.

    This is not to say you _shouldn’t_ modify the mooch ratio, but I would be leery of tightening it too much. You don’t want to make yourself too many administrative headaches.

  35. I don’t see a relationship between inventory size and mooch ratio. Does it matter how many books or points a company has if it is bound by the same rules as everyone else (just like in our BookSwim discussion earlier)? How would BookMooch be harmed by a company with lots of books and lots of points? I don’t disagree. I just don’t understand the problem.

    I think a 2:1 ratio maximum sounds fine. It may be difficult to fairly handle members in good standing who currently have a ratio higher than 2:1.

    Changing the ratio calculation to encourage international shipping might be good. The explanation could be clearer though. If I understand what you’re suggesting, every one book given to someone in another country would count as two books given in the ratio calculation. Correct?

    In my opinion the suggestion of giving points based on condition notes would not help. A dealer (or anyone) would just automatically fill all his books with “good”, “typical used”, or some other useless blurb like “may contain underlining or highlighting” like so many dealers on Amazon do to avoid actually looking through a book and describing its condition.

    One last comment. I don’t think dealers should be identified or singled out in any way. They should not be discriminated against as long as they adhere to the same rules as everyone else. A giver can’t put conditions on giving a book.


  36. Nanci said

    Okay, I agree with some of the posts. I don’t see how limiting the inventory posted is going to help people who are looking for a specific book. I do agree international should get more points, as it does cost more to ship, so there should be some incentive. I agree that it should be done gradually, and I think book sellers (in the trade) should be forced to identify themselves, or if they really are a problem, then do not allow them. The requirement to post condition on each book, or even a review, might stop the slamming of book posts and mooches for commercial use, and also benefit members (win-win), while not punishing those who merely want to exchange books. I add books when I am not mooched from for a while, and need points, or when I have the time. I think the .10 point for adding a book is about right.

  37. Adele said

    Changing the mooch:give ratio from 5:1 to 2:1 seems practical and fair. To me, the giving is as important as the getting, since I am trying to reduce the volume of my personal collection to the books I really want to keep. I am very careful in noting anything about the condition of a book that I think would make the book unappealing to someone. I have unfortunately been unpleasantly surprised to receive a paperback described as worn that was actually falling apart — I would expect the book to at least be whole.
    Awarding more points for shipping internationally is important, since, in my experience, the international postage is at least three times the cost of domestic postage.

  38. Sharon said

    (Mooched + pending mooch) divided by (given + pending give) = Mooch ratio, as I understand it. The more books I’ve given and mooched, the easier it is to keep a stable ratio (mainly since I can’t mooch without points). Like many others I just want to give away books I don’t want and mooch ones I do want; I do not have a huge inventory. When I first joined BM it was a lot easier to get up to the 5:1 ratio because the number of books mooched and given was far less, and it took a while to establish people’s trust. It still is slow with giving books away, being an international moocher, but my ratio has been below 2 for quite a while now. 2:1 sounds quite restrictive and I wouldn’t mind so long as people mooched more from me… is 3:1 also acceptable? I don’t know, I’ve always liked 5:1 and haven’t had to worry about being too close to the mark since I first joined.

  39. Clair said

    The major flaw I see in restricting the mooch ratio is that, as someone who regularly sends internationally, I have a large amount of points for sending fewer books than someone who will only send within their own country. However, I have spent more money sending those books than if I had sent them in my own country. The way I see it, I deserve those points. Why should I not be able to use them as and when I want to just because my mooch ratio will be considered to high?

    Also, because the large majority of BM members I have come across are unwilling to send their books internationally, even if I want to I can’t ‘spend’ as many points requesting books as I can ‘earn’ by sending them. This again restricts my choice and penalises people who are willing to send their books abroad when others won’t. Is this fair?

    So, should I have limited the amount of books in my inventory? Or should I refuse to send internationally? Surely this would limit choice for other BM members.

    At the moment, choose who I mooch from and choose who can mooch from me (my right to refuse.) Why is this not enough?

  40. Bill said

    Well, you are not limiting the inventory posted by eliminating the .10 point after a certain limit. Look at PBS, some people have hundreds or thousands of books posted, but they receive nothing (after the initial 3 credits) for posting. The poster should be focused on earning points when the book is requested after all. Currently the system is set up to encourage posting of lots and lots of books, but very few of them need to be something anyone will EVER request. Limiting the ratio to 2:1 would probably do much the same thing in effect, but might be too restrictive on international moochers. I dont see any reason why there needs to be posting credit after some reasonable “starter” amounts of points is earned. So, maybe a 3:1 ratio and a lifetime cap on posting points at 10? I also think users should be limited to 1 account, right now I dont know if there is anything stopping someone from opening one account and maxing their ratio, then opening another and doing the same.

  41. Leah said

    Not fond of the idea because as a new member I was originally attracted by the fact that I could post books and receive 5 books regardless of the popularity of books in my inventory. It took some time for me to get a feel for what books would get mooched quickly when browsing dollar stores, garage sales, and salvation army, and if it wasn’t for the high mooch ratio I wouldn’t have continued with this book trading site for a year next month. I also would not have been as motivated to buy bargain books and post them if the promised return would have been limited. I’m not in this site for charity or a warm fuzzy glow gained from giving, if people were in this site selflessly they would give every point to charity. I love getting books that I like to read and giving books to my family and friends. Having to give books away isn’t a sacred or higher calling, just necessary.
    Furthermore, I find a huge flaw in your assumption that a large bookstore would be harmful to the website by taking advantage of this ratio. If their inventory was that large, likely many people would be mooching books from them, and if the bookstore tried to abuse the system by not sending out books or sending out shoddy books the number of people complaining would be high also very quickly and the bookstore would be dealt with. How exactly will having a wider selection of books be harmful when the entire point of the site is to have a large selection that we can trade with each other? And do you truly want to drive away stores who probably find this site attractive because of the ability to gain points by posting books? Also, more points would be flowing into the bookmooch community freeing up the givers of the books to mooch books from others. If people are offended by the idea of mooching from or giving to a bookstore, the transparency on the site means they can avoid giving to or mooching from large inventories. If you do insist on lowering the ratio, go higher than 2:1, something like 3:1 or 4:1, 2:1 is an awfully tight restriction that would hurt beginning users, the lifeblood of bookmooch. Another option would be to tighten restrictions from 5:1 to 3:1 after 3 or 4 months. That would give new users a chance to get on their feet As others have said, after some time normally the ratio comes down and the users are hooked on the site, they’ll stick around. Still, don’t tighten restrictions too much or bookmooch’s main advantage of giving points merely for posting and receiving books, the main advantage over competing sites, will no longer be nearly as attractive.

  42. Bill said

    Jon: In your question as to commercial entities possible harming the Mooch system- here’s the answer. In order to use the points they have gained, they will create a giant wishlist of 20k,30k or more books. They already pay staff, so they have someone sit there all day long watching/mooching from their list, grabbing everything of commercial value ($5 and up). SO if you want Mooch full of nothing but old romance novels and outdated self-help books, then that will work out just fine. On a cost/benefit side, the bookstore spends $2 to send out a book (dead inventory), then requests 5 books worth $25 or more to them. The Mooch community spends at least $10 to send this bookstore books it will then resell. IN addition, the bookstore will be constantly checking/refreshing their wishlist, adding to both server load and bandwidth costs for Mooch.

  43. Andrea Schnitzler said

    Personally, I think letting booksellers use BookMooch benefits no one but the booksellers. They list a phenomenal number of books that no one wants and in exchange grab the best books from BookMooch – the ones that every wants. Then they take those books and sell them on their own website. It’s extremely exploitative. I would limit the number of books that anyone can list on BookMooch to something like 500. The whole spirit of BookMooch is undermined when a bookseller comes in, skims the cream off the top and returns nothing to the BookMooch inventory that anyone needs or wants. Why would the BookMooch community tolerate this? BookMooch is about sharing and booksellers are about taking what they want because they’re doing it to make money. They aren’t going to list any decent books on BookMooch because that will interfere with their main objective, which is making money. Seriously, if you could ban booksellers from listing on BookMooch all together it would benefit all of us.

  44. Debra said

    John, I think your idea is great, exactly the way you have stated. A ratio of 2:1 with international mooches counting as 2 towards the ratio is great. Thank you for caring so much about the fairness of the site and constantly changing things as situations arise. πŸ™‚


  45. Susan said

    I like the idea of leaving the mooch ratio where it is. Mailing to overseas accounts is expensive—almost always at least three times the expense of a domestic mailing—and I feel that the 2 extra points I get for doing this makes up for the cost of shipping. Perhaps a bit mercenary of me, but that’s part of why I’m mooching instead of donating to the library. I think putting a lower cap on the mooching ratio might harm international moochers.

    I think the idea of limiting the number of points a user gets for listing a lot of books in their inventory is a better idea for controlling abuse by individuals or companies who list massive numbers of books. I thought the idea of giving someone a tenth of a point for listing a book was to get users started. I have had a bad experience with someone who listed many books and then mooched, but rejected or ignored other people’s mooches. It seems to me that allowing a tenth of a point for every book over say, a hundred, is a bit excessive. If companies want to list thousands of books, let them, but there’s no reason to reward them with points for it. If they want to get points, they can trade just like the rest of us.

  46. Stephen Ross said

    John, thank you so much.

    You could simplify:

    Minimum 5 books listed to be able to mooch. No minimum to be mooched from.
    No points for listing books.
    Mandatory condition notes via easy multiple choice check boxes.
    Text field for optional condition comments.

    I really like your 2:1, and 2 point international idea.

  47. Jon said

    I have a problem with lowering the points awarded for international mooches. The thing is, if only two points are awarded for sending internationally surely fewer people will be inclined to send internationally, taking the higher postage costs into consideration. My country is Greece and there are relatively few BookMooch members here and not many books to choose from. International mooches are a lifeline for English books. The system seems to me a brilliant one and it is a shame that certain unscrupulous companies will be allowed to spoil it. I can understand that members from the USA or from Britain will have few problems with a reduction in points awarded for international mooches, because it will not affect them the way it will moochers in other countries. Of course, if you live in the USA, for example, there are vast numbers of books to mooch in your own country. Please consider the cost and expense of sending abroad and please find another way to counter abuse of the system. Many thanks.

  48. Jeff C. said

    I also want to give a thumbs up for the idea of rewarding those who post condition notes. This would keep the book shops from bulk listing. I like this idea a lot.

    I also have thought that the 5:1 ratio was very generous. I don’t think that the 2:1 ratio is onerous at all. But if you or others do see it as onerous, maybe the sliding scale idea would work.

    The problem with a straight sliding scale would be that, if it kicks in at say 500, the incentive to add the 501st book would greatly disappear. Then owners would only post 500 books, and only add another book once one in their inventory was mooched, thereby keeping their inventory number at 500.

    If points given for massive inventories is the real problem (as you say in your initial posting), I again agree with previous posters, that cutting off the 1/10th point “reward” at say 500 books might work. There would be no detriment to adding the 501st book, just no immediate benefit (other than having the book visible and therefore mooch-able).

  49. alina said

    2:1 works just fine with the large majority of bookmooch accounts, I believe. Sure, there’s the newbies and the ones that send mostly internationally, but honestly, the majority sits comfortably in that 2:1 ratio. So I think the change would be fine.

  50. Ingrid said

    I think 5:1 is mighty generous, too…but is it really a problem? If a bookstore joins and lists 75,000 books, that’s just 75,000 more books for me and you to choose from. Even if they get the 7500 points for that, they’re still limited to mooching from the existing inventory (ie my books and your books). That’s more points for us, so that we can mooch even more books that we don’t have time to read. Even at 5:1 they will grease the wheel – they have a huge inventory, so of course they’ll have a lot of books mooched – but they’ll have to mooch a lot more too. If it ain’t broke….

    Again, now, there’s been talk of changing existing rules, rules that I think everyone’s pretty cool with, to make them fit a bookseller. Why not, then, just have a different set of rules for private vs. commercial members? The alternate rules don’t need to be unfair to them, or punish them in any way, maybe just limit their advantage, if it’s felt that there is one, over the average private member.

    I don’t like the idea of messing with the ratio because it’s a ratio. Skewing it will make it a something else. If you’re going to make it something else, then why not make it a point system, where whichever elaborate calculations will result in moochiness points, or stars, or smileys — or books!? Then a member would only be allowed to mooch if they had X-many stars, or whatever.

    Whatever you choose to do John, thank you for doing it. 😎

  51. rere98 said

    I always thought the ratio was based on number of books mooched/number of books sent. So why would a book sent to another country count as more than one book in the ratio? Sure you get more points, but the number of books stays the same.

  52. Rena Kim said

    This doesn’t seem to be taking into account those members who take advantage of deals (like 2-for-1 deals).

  53. Andrew said

    2:1 seems more than fair; perhaps 3:1 to account for the international trade thing. (5:1 always seemed far too big to me! I feel rather guilty at the thought of going over 1.5:1 at the most… I’ve just tested on a sample of 20-odd users I’ve interacted with – of those only one has a ratio over 2:1, and that’s someone who runs two accounts in different locations)

    Thing is, you’re really running an economy here. There’s a lot of inflation in it – the total number of points in circulation will be incremented by 0.2 points each and every time a book’s added and then claimed. (+0.1 created for being added, none for being claimed, +0.1 created for acknowledging). If it’s an international trade, there’s 1.2 points created with each “total transaction”.

    This is an awful lot of ‘free’ points floating around. The aim’s to introduce liquidity – to “grease the wheels” – and that works, but I wonder if the system as set up is being too generous with it, and *that’s* what’s helping lead to problems like this one. Hum. Discussion for another day, I fear…

  54. Jacquelyn said

    I think the mooch ratio would be just fine at 2:1 and as another stated, I’ll continue to send books internationally, whatever the point system turns out to be.

    I would like to know somehow if a book seller was mooching from me because then I’d have the option to gift the book to another book lover and not to a business out to sell their mooches for profit. That being said, I also acknowledge that if I’m willing to give a book away, I can’t necessarily know who will mooch it or what will become of it.

  55. Karl said

    I agree with Michael (and Brian) above: For listing books, give 0.1 points for listings #1-100, 0.01 points for listings up to #1000, etc.. This could be circumvented by someone willing to open many accounts in order to earn the 0.1 point/listing on all their listings. I suppose we (bookmooch) could counter such a strategy by requiring substantially different addresses for each account.

  56. chris said

    My mooch ratio is over 2:1 and that reflects two things: Most of my mooches are international and I take advantage of qunatity discounts for children’s books for my son. I’m not abusing the system. I’m simply operating within its boundaries.
    Chris in Osaka

  57. Marianne said

    Having been an active moocher/giver for over a year now, I can say that at first, I really appreciated the 5:1 ratio, even though I never got that high (think I got to 3:1 once). But now, I have a decent number of points and my ratio seems to hover at 1:1 without any conscious effort on my part. I mooch all I want and send out all the books requested and it just seems to have levelled around 1:1.
    I’d be happy with a 2:1 limit on the ratio.

  58. Andreea said

    I agree with the 2:1 ratio, it is lenient enough to allow for some of those free points floating about that Andrew mentioned. BM members with a higher ration can get a grace period, or a higher ratio allowance depending on the size of their inventory.

    I also think that bookstores with such large inventories should be clearly identified as such. Despite the ‘economy of points’, BM still feels more like a community, with person-to-person contacts and without the deluge of ads and market/profit focus impossible to avoid most elsewhere. I feel the addition of several/many large bookstores would alter this spirit in many ways, and I’m all for attempts to contain such alteration.

  59. crelm said

    While I like the idea of thousands of books being added to bookmooch, I don’t think giving the lister lots of points is appropriate. It is easy to imagine a store adding 10,000 books of no particular worth and then using those to mooch good stuff. It is also easy to imagine them listing books that might be good and then refusing mooch requests – having just listed the book to get the points.

    So, I think that it might be good to change the ratio – but do it more selectively. Make it 5:1 for moochers with less than 100 books listed, 3:1 for moochers with less than 1000 books listed and 1.25:1 for moochers with more than 1000 books listed.

    Also, giving 0.1 points for listing all the books seems a bit much – why not do the same kind of thing. You get 0.1 points for every book up to 100, then 0.01 up to 1000 and 0.0001 thereafter (yup, that is a larger jump than the previous ones). Someone listing 100,000 books would then get 100*0.1 + 000*0.01 + 95000*0.0001 or 28.9 points.

    While this may seem a major imposition on the commercial types, part of the goodness of bookmooch to me was that I could donate books to people(!) who would (I hoped) enjoy them, and get books that I might enjoy. Putting bookstores into the process just makes me think of every time I go to library booksales and watch the commercial book buyers walk off with huge quantities of books in the first half hour cheap – only to resell them at 1000% markup (or worse). That they are rude and grabby in the process only makes me the more unwilling to give them any breaks.

    I’d certainly also encourage marking commercial book dealers somehow as I would prefer that my books go to people.

  60. Kirra said

    I don’t keep up much on all the details of what goes on around here,but I will say that if a book store comes on here with a huge inventory, isn’t it going to be pretty obvious what they are, without making a note of it? As far as everything else, everyone seems to have made good observations, and I hope it works out to make BookMooch that much better.

  61. j.kerr said

    Maybe this was already mentioned, I sort of skimmed at the end, but what about giving the 1/10th point for _only_ the first 20 books listed? That way new people can mooch their first one or two books, but book sellers aren’t getting a gazillion points for their listings?

    I also liked the idea of only awarding the 1/10th when you add condition notes — I wish more people would take the time to do that. I don’t mind getting a beat up book, but I’d rather know about it up front.

    Like several other people mentioned, I also like to send books internationally. And I like getting the extra points! ha. So I’d rather not lose out on that. I’m always under 2:1, so I guess it wouldn’t make a difference to me if the ratio was lowered, but I’d like to keep the extra points.

    I love, love, love BookMooch — thanks for all your hard work on this!

  62. Jason said

    As a bookstore (business) owner, I would want to take part in BookMooch for two reasons: I would be able to receive more books than I send out, hoping that the sale of those books received would exceed the cost of shipping others – not unreasonable; I might, through exposure, prove my store’s awesomeness, leading moochers to look up my store if they have bad luck getting certain books on their wishlist.

    The first of these is the problem being discussed. Introducing the second motivation gets me thinking of a particular solution: Allow an inventory search of (online) sellers’ books in the ‘Browse for books’, search BookMooch/Amazon for a book. Or, perhaps an option to search/view book sellers’ books when a search yields no results. There is advertising no more than Amazon gets – which for the target audience of BookMooch isn’t really any – so the community free of commercialism built up here isn’t threatened.

    Then again, there is the threat of having too many stores in a ‘I’ve given up on waiting for someone to part with this awesome book that no one is ever going to give away, so I’ll just have to look elsewhere list’ to search. I don’t know how out of hand this solution of mine might get, as I don’t know how many booksellers would want this. If this were a problem, perhaps a ratio system could be implemented for stores to earn a place on the list?

    Too many suggestions, I know.

  63. evolve said

    you could simply stop giving the 1/10th point for listing books after 100 books listed. this gives people up to 10 points “free” to get started and doesn’t cause any of the issues brought up by changing the mooch ratio.
    yes, people could start new accounts and charity their points over and get new points for the next 100 books they list.. but i guess i just don’t think the majority of people here are that dishonest (or intelligent?)

  64. Leela4 said

    I really dislike your proposition of cutting back on the ratio. It took two months to put me over four points, and that was only because two people actually wanted two of my books. And four points doesn’t make me very amenable to mooching books from other countries, yet I wish someone from another country would mooch from me so I’d get more points!–a downside that will only get worse under what you propose. What about people whose collections move even slower? They can’t mooch at all while they wait for someone to mooch from them. You need to keep the system the way it is for the low volume newcomer, without giving a huge advantage to high volume members.

    The simple and obvious solution is to scale back how many points *Inventories* are worth, since that’s the actual problem. But you need to do it without punishing the little people.

    1) You could set a maximum number of points that one’s current inventory can be worth. For example you might set a maximum value of 10.0 for 100 books, so while a member can have more than 100 books listed, no more than 10.0 points are counted for it. That would limit the number of mooches a large-inventory member could have running concurrently. (Although that number would rise, the more books he successfully gives away.)


    2) You could set up a tier scale where, say, 1-50 books are worth 0.1 points each, 51-100 books are worth 0.05 points….


    3) You could set a maximum number of pending transactions and require that each transaction last some minimum number of days before the system considers the transaction closed even after feedback has been given. Say, 10 points and 7 days. So if a member had at least ten points he could mooch ten books, but couldn’t do yet another mooch until the first mooch was at least a week old, even if he gave feedback before that week was up.

  65. There seems to be confusion about a few things:

    1) I am not suggesting changing the points for international mooches (ie 2 from the moocher, 3 for the giver) but rather counting each book sent internationally twice when calculating the mooch ratio. Today, all books are counted once, no matter what. My reason for doing this is to not penalize people with a 2:1 ratio due to sending internationally a lot. However, I like the comment someone made that “if you send a book out internationally and get 3 points, you expect to be able to spend those points”, so to be consistent, I probably should could sending internationally as 3 books when calculating the mooch ratio.

    2) Introducing a sliding scale for adding books (ie, .1 points for first 100, .005 for next 100) is technically not possible because BM also deducts points when you remove a book from your inventory. How would it know how much to deduct? And of course, as was mentioned, charitable gifting becomes problematic too. It’s also complicated. Ditto with “no more points for adding books when your inventory is large”

    3) the reason for the .1 points for listing a book is a) to help newbies get started and b) to motivate people to list books

    4) condition notes wouldn’t probably change things, as booksellers often have this in their database

    5) I don’t like the idea that booksellers would have different (worse) treatment than other people, as that motivates them to hide their real identity. I don’t like systems that encourage cheating. I also dislike any comment that uses the word “force” as in “we should force them to…”. Come on people, empathize, don’t go all Stalinistic on me!

    6) I don’t view listing 75,000 books as “abuse” — the book sellers is acting in good faith and simply listing everything they are willing to give away.

    7) Two-for-one sales would be impacted by this change, that’s true. I don’t know if this is serious since few people get most of their books via two-for-one sales.

    8 ) re: blocking bookstores. First of all, I think book stores are great, I love them, and I think the world will be a better place if we have more of them. I don’t view them as “mercenary” I see them as “book loving people trying to make a living” (perhaps that’s a bit idealistic, but there you are). Secondly, bookstores listing junk that no-one wants, will have a poor mooch ratio, and not be able to get the books they want, so I don’t see that as a problem. Thirdly, is the idea of local audience, namely that any book store generally has a limited audience, and what their audience doesn’t want to pay for, a larger, more geographically diverse BookMooch audience might want. And hey, maybe BookStores will end up swapping between each other, finding books that each can sell in their local markets.

    9) I’ll crunch some numbers soon and see how many members are over a 2:1 ratio, so we get an idea how many people this would actually effect.


  66. baffiebabe said

    If you don’t mind me throwing my 2p in, I’d like to suggest that you put a cap on the number of points earned, preferably in a multiple that doesn’t affect people who are wanting to get books internationally. I think something quite high would be fair to everyone… say 1000 or 2000? It’s probably reasonable to assume that no private person is going to ever need more points than that, I should think. Even if you’re getting all your books internationally, you’d still have to mooch a LOT to need that many points.

    As it is now, without a cap, if your book store lists 75,000 books, that would give them 7500 points, but the bottom line is still that they wouldn’t be able to get books if they don’t send them out.

    The way I see it, to decrease the ratio from 5:1 to 2:1 would, in fact, only penalise people who have small inventories. If you have an inventory of thousands of books, then your ratio is probably *not* going to be a problem, but for the small moochers like myself and others on the site, that would mean that I couldn’t mooch any more books until someone wants one of mine, because right now I already have that 2:1 ratio.

    The only thing that’s slightly confusing for me is *how* the ratio is arrived at… a book is a book is a book, so I reckon that a book sent to my country is worth the same (as far as the ratio goes) as one sent internationally.

    In fact, I think everything about the current system is quite fair, and the only way to keep it fair for the majority of users is to leave it as it is. We all have the option to refuse a mooch, so if we feel that booksellers are mooching from us too often we can just say ‘no’. Not letting them come on the site when they could potentially make all our mooching dreams come true is just silly, so if you’re going to change anything I think a cap of points is the only thing that might change. It still allows everyone get the books they want.

    While I’m here, one thing I’d like to see added would be the ability to request ‘charity’ points at the time of listing rather than requesting them in the notes or after someone has mooched from you. My inventory is quite low because I’m on a severely limited income and I’ve not listed anything that’s going to cost too much (i.e., weighs too much) to send at a reasonable price. I’d have a *lot* more books listed if I could get extra points for sending heavy books out. I’m also on RISI (… I weigh books there as well, but not so strenuously because I’m trading for one I want at the same time as I’m sending one out), so when I swap a book on there it decreases my inventory here.

    Anyway, good luck with your decision. πŸ™‚

  67. Caitie said

    What I’ve been wondering – in what’s being proposed, if sending internationally would count as 2 (or 3) in the ratio, would mooching internationally also count as 2?

  68. Sandy said

    I am not that bothered about the mooch ratio as I don’t take that much notice of it! I do take notice of how many books a member is waiting to receive and how many books they are supposed to be sending. I have had problems with moochers accepting my mooches and then not sending the books!! Fair enough I have not requested many books but the reality is of the ones I have requested, some have failed to arrive which is disheartening. I also have found that many of my moochers are from USA. I do state that I will post internationally and at the moment the 3 points is an incentive to do so. It costs approx 3 times as much to post overseas from the UK by Airmail as domestic postage. Although I don’t have to use Airmail, I think it is better to not have to wait 8 weeks to find that a book is not coming your way anyway as it was never posted and the member has scooted off. I do use Surface mail, if my pocket money is low though!!

    I am also a member of another site which tracks books. If I start to mooch to booksellers I would be bothered that they will strip the books of their labels making the tracking system a waste of time and effort for me. I would be delighted to know if the moocher is a seller rather than an individual and can act accordingly by not sending out trackable books to them. Of course an individual can strip the books but it seems less likely and in my experience doesn’t happen that much. Thanks for addressing this subject though, and by the looks of the replies it has caused a stir!!

  69. Thank you for posting your clarifications John.

    I agree that a book sent internationally should count as 3 books given in the mooch calculation, so that people can spend the 3 points they earn for sending internationally.

    I’ve read all the comments here. Many people don’t understand that the mooch ratio protects the system from excessive mooching. It doesn’t matter how many points a member has or how large an inventory is. You can’t mooch unless you also give. Many people also don’t understand that the ratio prevents damage from worthless books being listed. If no one wants your books you can’t mooch. If you list 100,000 books that no one wants it doesn’t help you one bit because you can’t spend your points. The fact that the ratio insures a balance of giving and getting protects the system from most of the things people fear.


  70. LE said

    John: has this possible 75K book possible member indicated anything about possibly shipping outside the US?

  71. angela said

    John: I am not suggesting changing the points for international mooches (ie 2 from the moocher, 3 for the giver) but rather counting each book sent internationally twice when calculating the mooch ratio.

    –> Ah, thanks for the clarification. I agree with this. I live in Indonesia, and sending stuff abroad is very expensive. And there are few members from my country (hence, fewer books to choose should I prefer to mooch locally). It’s difficult to find English books here, so I find BookMooch extremely useful. I think this new ratio is quite fair.

    Many many thanks, for maintaining this great site!

  72. Chris L said

    from 5-1 to 2-1 seems pretty drastic. 3-1 seems more reasonable.

    Also, I like the ratio idea in terms of inventory– make the required ratio a function of the size of one’s inventory.

  73. Christina said

    I agree that the simplest way to prevent big inventory abuse is to lower the mooch ratio. 2:1 seems reasonable to me, but my ratio is 0.5:1. Extra ratio point for international mooches sounds fine.

    Nearly all the books I’ve mooched have been in very good condition (as have the books I’ve sent), but I would worry about this more with big booksellers. What about requiring a drop down menu choice with some basic condition catagories (like new, very good, good, fair) when adding books to inventory?

    thanks for the great site- finding good homes for good books, and getting new ones to read in exchange is fabulous.

  74. christy747 said

    I think that the 5:1 ratio is too large, and would definitely support lowering that ratio to 3:1 or even 2:1. I’d also be curious to know what percentage of moochers actually have such high ratios, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen any. (When I first joined, I was worried that I’d mooch many more books than I sent, but that turned out not to be the case!)

    I don’t see the point in offering more ‘mooch ratio’ points for sending books internationally. One book sent is still one book sent, regardless of where it goes! However, I like that sending books internationally earns a sender three points- it’s a good incentive and keeps international mooching going strong.

    I love this site. Thanks for all your hard work.

  75. SJ Hennessy said

    I support the concept of giving listing points up to some maximum (say 10). That gives newbies a chance to get started mooching and does not incentivize listing “dead” inventory. It’s not great to change the rules “after the fact” but that’s life. You gotta be flexible and change as new hurdles cross the horizon.

  76. John:

    Thanks for mentioning why the “sliding scale for adding books” wouldn’t actually work out. It seemed like a great idea, but perhaps not in practice.

    I’ll add that letting bookdealers post large inventories still sounds positive overall to me. As so many people point out, one person’s trash… (Like others, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to be able to give away books here that I *never* expected anyone to want, and have been likewise thrilled to mooch things including weird old vintage romance novels, rather than having to pay through the nose to get them on Amazon.)

    Anything that can be done to increase the available inventory, while maintaining a neighborly atmosphere here, has my vote.


  77. Michael said


    I’m not sure I understand your argument for why the logarithmic point scale wouldn’t work. Can you please clarify?

    It seems to me it should work the same way for removal of books as it would for adding books—if you have n books, the reward of adding one more book is worth R(n) = pow(10, -floor(log10(max(n, 10)))) points.* If you have n books, the cost of removing one book is what you would have paid if that book had been the last one you added, so R(n-1). The order doesn’t matter—only how many points I’ve earned by adding books, which diminishes in the appropriate fashion.

    Am I missing something subtle here?

    * Or, $10^{-\lfloor\log_{10}(\max(n,10))\rfloor}$, if you prefer LaTeX.

  78. ross said

    sounds guud to me.

    i’m not so great at calculating these sorts of things or critically analyzing them but it sounds fair to me.

  79. Josh said

    I think this is a practical solution – thank you for thinking of all of us.

  80. DubaiReader said

    I may be in an unusual position in that I live in Dubai so all my mooches are international, but I also have a UK account so UK moochers who won’t send overseas are still accessible to me. I mooch UK books to Dubai if that is an option but often it is not. That means I earn my points sending from Dubai where I have a ratio of 1.05:1 (an odd ratio for all overseas mooches) but my UK account is fueled by charity points that I send myself (except in the Summer when I go to UK and add loads of books to my inventory beforehand). My UK account is 2.48:1 which might become illegal. SO is there some way my 2 accounts could be counted together?? I’m not doing anything illegal, just avoiding some poor person from having to be my Angel in UK.

  81. Tangent said

    I think the 5:1 ratio is nice for new members, and just too high for established members and/or members with really high inventory. It is nice to let people mooch a few books right away. Maybe a good compromise would be to decrease the allowable ratio after someone mooches a certain number of books. For example, a 5:1 ratio for people who’ve mooched 1-10 books, a 4:1 ratio for 11-20, and so on, with the final, lowest ratio being maybe just a smidge over what someone would get if they sent all their books internationally and mooched only from their own country.

    (I don’t like the idea of basing it on the number of books someone has added, because I don’t think “people with large inventories” (or “people who have a high rate of adding/mooching”) is really the problem. It’s just that someone might use a large inventory to mooch without giving.)

    The only downside I can see is that it could provide an incentive for people to make multiple accounts to abuse the system.

  82. Lethe said

    So much interesting discussion and good points. John, thanks for asking.

    Overall, I do think that using the ratio to prevent turning listings-without-sends into books received is a good protection, whether the abuser is big or small. If the inventory is trash (like my current inventory), then it won’t get mooched. But it might be good to encourage newbies by letting them have a slightly higher ratio while getting started.

    I still think it is easier to calculate the ratio based on points earned and spent through sending and receiving, rather than artifically fiddling with the book numbers to attempt to adjust for international mooching.

    Also, if book numbers are only doubled when I send internationally, but I get three points for doing so (and I only mooch domestically), I can get in a situation where my ratio would be >2:1, and thus not be allowed to spend points which I have legitimately earned by doing international sends. In which case I would have to quit sending internationally, which would be sad. Calculating ratios on points earned/spent takes care of that, and is less fussy algorithmically.

    Regarding specials (2 for 1, 5 for 1, etc.), that is the other way that the ratio can be skewed. Would it be sound to include points charitied into the ratio calcuation, to correct for that?

    I agree with Michael, that a sliding scale is not a problem (under whatever the sliding scale is, it doesn’t have to be a log function, it could be a simple function of over or under 1000). When a book is removed, it doesn’t matter how many points were gained when that particular book was added, it only matters what removal does to the total size of the inventory. If it makes the inventory go from, say, 11 books to 10 books, then decrement them 0.1 point. If it makes the inventory go from 2222 to 2221 books, then decrement them by 0.01 point (or whatever the scheme is).

    So many other good points. I agree that condition notes should be incentivized in some way. I don’t know if this is feasible, but it should be a unique individual description, not just the same string of text slapped on every book by a bot. If booksellers have that info in the db, then give them incentive to make sure they include it in the bm listing. If they don’t, then an incentive to make them (and all members) do so is good. One of the very good points about bookmooch is that newbies can get started by listing, but I don’t think it should be too much of a problem to encourage newbies to give condition notes as well.

    Emotionally, part of me recoils from the idea of businesses sucking books out of the pool, even though I know that business is just people trying to make a living. But feels uncomfortable to insert commerce into something that has been a congenial book trade club, it changes the feeling of it all. It is hard to get a sense of whether it will be an overall benefit, with the added possible inventory, or a shadow over the land of happy moochers. Would they maybe give you access to their inventory, and could you come up with numbers of how many titles they could add that are not currently available to bookmooch, and how many of them are on wishlists? And will they ship internationally? Will they do 2 for 1 specials? etc.

    Small point: under my ratio, a book lost while being sent to me (actually from a closed abuse account) is counting under my books received. Should books which are lost received not be counted, because I did not get the book and I did get my point back.

    Again, thanks for all your work, and for tossing out these ideas.

  83. chunnie said

    I’m afraid that I don’t undertsand the logistics of the ratio system at all. What I do know is that I feel like I’m in debt if I mooch more books than I have given. I am quite happy to mooch one book for every book I give, with an option of a book “overdraft” to fall back on, for example, if the number of books I have recieved is 5 more than those I have given I will stop mooching until my number of recieved books is equal to (or less than) the number of books I have given. It is far less complicated for me to work this way than to understand the 5:1 ratio thing. Would it not be easier to use a similar book “overdraft” method on the site? For example if you set the “overdraft” at say 10 books (or whatever number you prefer), this would mean that the maximum number any individual can mooch would be 10 more than those they have given. It would also mean that a newbie who has just earned themselves 7500 points by adding books to their inventory would not be allowed to mooch more than 10 books before he/she has to start giving books before they can mooch more. Just a thought.

  84. gemmas said

    Sorry – haven’t had time to read all comments but my thoughts are as follows:


    I send half my books overseas and as I am from Australia I have to Mooch most of my books internationally as well. It costs a lot of money to post overseas so I may not be able to afford it if I only get 2 points in return. It is OK if you live in the USA or Europe but otherwise where book supplied are lower this is very much a disadvantage.

  85. evolve said

    gemmas.. he’s not changing the points. maybe you should have taken the time to read more of the comments and you would see your misunderstanding.

    ahhh, people.

    so, here’s my opinion on the whole bookstore thing.. i work in a used bookstore. often i think how great it would be when i see a copy of something like The Time-Traveler’s Wife up for mooching (and i know that we have somebody waiting for it on our “wishlist” at the store) if i could just get it for a single point and sell it for $15. but. i never do. because to me, and to many other people here, that isn’t what bookmooch is about. it is about trading books you have and no longer need for books you would like to read, or possibly give away. there are sites for sellers that are good. is one of them. let them use those.
    i don’t feel that changing the structure of bookmooch to accommodate a large used bookstore is to anybody’s advantage. yes, they might list some good books. and a few people would be made happy by that. but who will be first in line to grab up The Kite Runner? not somebody who has been dying to read it, most likely. if you want to change the mooch ratio, that’s great. 3:1 seems fair all around. but i don’t agree with your reason and i truly hope you think about how this affects the “little guy.”

    perhaps this question is too personal, but are you getting some kind of incentive to do this?

  86. Dottie said

    Hi there,
    I’ve long since had strong feelings about sending books to a bookstore that can, in turn, make a profit from it. I understand that a book belongs to the person who mooched it and can be used as a coaster if that is what the moocher so chooses. (I’d actually prefer the coaster result to paying good money to carefully wrap and put a book in the mail so that the moocher can sell it for a profit. I could make a profit on it myself at a yard sale -at the very least- if I thought that was what this site was about.) To be honest, this is one of my pet-peeves about BookMooch. So, in my opinion, a limit to the number of books in an inventory is a good idea (especially when you’re talking tens of thousands at a time). That definitely leaves BM wide open for the kinds of abuse that have been mentioned.
    While on the subjuect of limits, is there any discussion as to how long a member can be inactive before the inventory no longer shows as available? I’ve seen several that were “possibly inactive” for over 400 days. After a year seems like a stretch. It’s frustrating for those books to keep showing up as available:( Is there any chance of an inventory going “on vacation” (at the very least) after say, a year?
    Obviously, none of my pet-peeves have been enough of a deterrent to keep me from BM’ing:) I’m thankful for the opportunity to voice my humble opinions.
    Overall, I enjoy this site tremendously.

  87. evolve said

    oh, also. in response to your comment about the “limited audience” .. you said in the post that this is a web-based bookstore. this point isn’t relevant to them.

  88. Winna said

    I think 5:1 is too lenient, but 2:1 is somehow too strict. In certain countries, sending books abroad is very expensive, and if we have to send out a book that can cover the costs of two new books, I don’t think people will bother mooching anymore.

    I agree with Michael, and my personal opinion is, 3:1 or 4:1 ratio is better.

  89. tudorpot said

    I’m concerned that the bookstores joining Bookmooch will not send internationally. Could you consider making this a requirement for bookstores joining?

    I’m afraid I can’t understand the difference between ratios and points. I am sending almost 90% of my books internationally. The postage to the US compared to the postage from the US to Canada is about half the cost for Americans. It’s frustrating now to see moochers who mooch internationally, but don’t send internationally. There needs to be some discussion of this.

    I hope I will still earn 3 points for each book sent internationally.

    I don’t think the a cut-off of 100 or 500 books will make a difference to a bookstore- they will just add them incrementally as they are mooched. I’m keen for the bookstores to join as they have lots of books. IN a sense if a book of mine is mooched by a bookstore- I’m selling it to them for the points that I can then use to get books that I want.

  90. Dana Minyard said

    I think most users are savvy enough to know when they are being taken advantage of. I agree with what was said in an earlier post, that we all have the right to refuse a mooch if we feel justified in doing so.

    I am still a relatively new user and my ratio stands around 1.3:1, which I consider respectable. What helps me more than anything when mooching or deciding to accept a mooch is the ability to read a member’s feedback score. I find that infinitely more revealing than ratios. Nothing speaks louder than actual comments from the community at large. I’ve been able to keep my ratio in pretty good shape, but beyond that, I and many others on the site have kept our feedback score positive by mailing promptly, informing the moocher of any delay, and being up front and clear about the condition of our inventory.

    On the reverse side of the coin, there are moochers on the site who have good ratios, yet a lot of neutral or negative feedback. I tend to want to mooch from – or be mooched from – people with a good feedback score. If a person has sent out one book and received one positive rating in response, that means more to me than ratios.

    So I say change the ratios or not as you think best, but I truly believe the community as a whole is able to police itself effectively by paying attention to the combination of ratios and feedback.

    D. Minyard

  91. 1) SET A CAP. After the first 100-200 books, eliminate the 1/10th point you get for adding a book.

    2) Do change the ratio from 5:1 to 2:1. I have no problem with that. My own ratio presently is 1:4 ! It seems fair.

    3) Do not change the international rate of 3 points!! (I even wrote earlier to suggest it be made 4 points.) I can tell you categorically: if it’s reduced to two, I WILL STOP SENDING OUT INTERNATIONALLY.

  92. Brian said

    Is it better to give or to receive?

    Since signing up a few weeks ago, I’ve given out 6 books and have received 4. However, my mooch ratio as displayed is below 1 (0.66:1). Shouldn’t it be displayed as 1.51 to everyone since I have given more than received?

  93. William said

    I don’t think changing the mooch ratio is necessary, but it’s fine with me. My intention a year ago was to keep my ratio as close to 5:1 as I could, and I soon found it to be impossible. As you told me a year ago, it equalizes out over time. The bump in ration by merely posting books gradually disappears and soon it’s headed toward 1:1. After a year of trying to increase my mooching, I now have mooched 600 books and given away 500, so I’m only at a 1.2 ratio.

    Here’s the scenario that will happen if this online store puts 75000 books on: They’ll receive 7,500 points, immediately get about 1,000 to 2,000 mooch requests within the first two months – costing them $2,000 to $4,000 in postage and giving then 1,000 to 2,000 more points. And within the first two months they likely won’t find more than 300-400 books to mooch for customers that would make it worth their while. It will equalize itself very quickly over the next few months as their mooch ratio remains BELOW 1:1 for the foreseeable future. So the worry is moot.

    Things tend to equalize themselves very quickly. When I found a bookstore selling books online at $1 a book with free shipping last month, some books so rare the next cheapest on ABE were going for $100, I figured I’d better order quickly. I managed to get 78 of them before they realized it was rather dumb to offer free shipping and charge only a dollar a book. Needless to say, the situation equalized within a week or two, and there are no longer cheap books with free shipping there.

    A similar thing will cause an equalization of points if the bookstore puts on 75,000 books. After spending thousands of dollars sending out free books over the first few months and mooching likely only several hundred, it’s more likely for them to start rejecting mooch requests or eliminate inventory (thereby losing points) rather than the likelihood of them having more than even a 1:1 mooch ration. That’s my analysis.

  94. StefanoC said

    If the point system were balanced (i.e. no point inflation), then the mooch ratio would not need limits, since the point economy would take care of that.

    My proposal is: keep the 0.1 point bonus for listing, as long as the inventory is under 100 titles. At the same time, have the 0.1 penalty on delisting only when the inventory is under 100 titles.

  95. Bruce said

    I like the idea of a sliding scale for granting mooch points for inventory listings. But don’t change the points awarded for sending books overseas. It costs nearly 3 times as much to send a book overseas, so 3 points is appropriate.

    I enjoy sending books overseas, but if the rewards are reduced, it wouldn’t be worth the cost.

  96. Amanda said

    I am kind of disappointed, but not surprised, that large booksellers want to use the site now. I’m just afraid that these huge inventories of books are going to snow under the books available from individuals, meaning less mooches for individuals, and thus less opportunity to benefit from the site. I agree with the previous poster who said he (or she, I forget) would like there to be some identifier in the profile, so that one knows whether they are mooching/being mooched by a bookseller instead of an individual.
    Perhaps there should be an inventory limit? Somewhere well under 750,000 books.

  97. Amanda said

    Apparently I cannot edit my comment, but that last number should be 75,000.

  98. tudorpot said

    Another thought- will these large booksellers be tied down to one location? So if they send from one country they must mooch from the same? It would be a great shame if they could mooch from inside the various countries, but then only be mooched from one.

  99. Matthew said

    I agree with those who say that inventory size doesn’t make that much difference. William’s comment about the equalizing effect makes sense to me. When I joined, I thought i would take advantage of the 5:1 ratio, but it ends up that I currently have a 1.08:1 ratio.

    Allowing bookstores on will only increase the number of books available; I think that is a very good thing. I like bookstores and allowing them on bookmooch would seem to make both the bookstores and bookmooch better.

  100. […] 19, 2007 After a very long discussion on the blog I’ve now changed the way the mooch ratio calculation […]

  101. Nick said

    Alright, reading through this entire conversation, a couple people seem to have hit on the most valid points, so I will attempt to create a summary as clearly as possible (and as objectively as possible):

    We are dealing with one main problem: the situation of one or more large-volume booksellers joining the site (we will use the 75,000 book example for numbers).

    By joining the site, they will list the inventory they intend for bookmoochers to have access to (we’ll assume the 75,000). By doing this they do indeed, under the current system, receive an initial 7,500 points at a cost of nothing to them. At the same time they will make available for the bookmooch community 75,000 books. All seems well in the world with no changes to our system.

    The problems come in when you evaluate a bookseller. The point that many people are missing is that a bookseller is a business. Ruling out CEO insanity, the business will ALWAYS keep a monetary profit in mind. Think of yourselves for a moment. If you owned a profitable system (say a website) and intended to make money with it via the bookmooch system (assume you’re not a charitable person), would you ever give away books to a free community, when the returns would be less? You wouldn’t. You will only mooch books of value to the business, and you will ONLY LIST BOOKS… that are not of value to the business, which means they’re not selling. Granted, some of these books may be desirable by the community. The great majority will likely not be.

    This is the evaluation of a business. The business isn’t joining our site because “aww, we can be nice to these people and make the world a better book-place”. The BUSINESS is joining the site because they believe there is potential for their business in it, and money for them (aka money FROM us).

    With this model in mind, they will make available for the bookmooch community (in theory) 75,000 less-than-desirable books as well as receive 7,500 points at no cost to them. This translates into 7,500 books for them, with a minimal of mooches being sent out. If I was a hardcore business CEO, I sure as hell would be happy with that.

    Okay, so we can still let them join, we simply need to a develop a system that eliminates the ability of the businesses to leech off our community. The foremost point in people’s minds is “they will have a potentially massive inventory giving them lots of free books to start”. Alright, the intent of the points-for-listing system is to give everyone a start. So to start, we set a hard limit that applies to everyone.

    Now I give out my non-objective suggestions. This is just a thrown-out number, let’s say 5. 5 free books for not spending a coin for anyone. I say that’s fairly reasonable and most people do not (and probably should not) violate that. So upon joining, you can get five books for free for listing 50 to the community, bad or not. After that, no more listing points. Additionally (I think this is a new suggestion) no more ratios at all!

    Well how would that work? Well with no listing points, inventory size will not affect a moocher’s usefulness on bookmooch except for your initial contribution, and even that is capped with my suggestion (list 20, get 2; list 50, get 5; list one million, get 5). The point system handles itself quite well. Let’s say the average moocher, from my observation, gives 1:1. They’ll progress maybe 2.5:1, 2:1, 1.5:1, eventually just 1:1 because they’ll get a point for giving a point (and an extra one per 10 for good feedback). Internationals will also keep their wonderful 3-point system because while they get 3 points for each 1 they send, they are spending ~3 times the money to mail it. So they get three domestic books (valued at ~$2 in shipping) for the cost of one international book (valued at ~$6 or even more in shipping). For international bookmooching to work, the ratio system has to either not exist, or be at minimum 3:1.

    By simply capping the 1/10-point listing bonus, it doesn’t affect long-time bookmoochers or normal-sized inventoried newcomers. It only affects massive-sized inventories. So could someone take advantage of this system?

    Business comes in, lists 75,000 books. They get 5 points. They use their 5 points, get their 5 books. Now if they list crappy stock, they may get say, 50-100 mooches (50-100 points) that they can only use accordingly. If they list awesome stock, this may get them 1000-5000 mooches, giving them far more points.

    Businesses still can use our books, but not without giving us something too. That is my analysis of my proposal: cap on the inventory listing 1/10th point system for the lifetime of an account. Completely get rid of the ratio system. The point system is a stable and proper economy, but only without the infinite listing points.

    Last words: sorry its so long, but at least no one will doubt where the argument stands πŸ˜‰

  102. Nick said

    … and I sure hope this doesn’t fall on deaf ears, because it seems that John made an edit to the system about 45 minutes ago (the time it took me to come up with my proposal).

    Just want what is best for the community!

  103. TimB said

    I’m not good with ratios will someone just tell me how many books I must give away for each book I receive in order to maintain my account?

  104. Sibilance said

    I’m concerned about the sweeping generalizations about booksellers’ profit motivations. And about businesspeople in general — hey, this site – Bookmooch – was built by a successful entrepreneur who has built his businesses on socially responsible, thoughtful values.

    As a former bookseller, if you think used booksellers as a whole are primarily driven by profit, you probably don’t know very many! (grin).

    Some online booksellers fit the evaluation posted above by Nick, but they tend to be johnny-come-latelys and not “lifers”.

    Traditionally, bookselling is a passion and a profession, and a tough way to make a living. Get a copy of “The Bookman’s Wake” by John Dunning, a tightly written mystery novel which can tell you how most of these people have built their entire businesses – taking a chance on a box of books and yes, doing LOTS of bartering with other stores, and even with individuals called “book scouts”. Bartering and trust, developing a reputation for quality and fair dealing, was and is a big core of the old bookselling world.

    Most booksellers stuck with it for the same reason people stick with writing or other arts – they love books. If they were out to make big or even moderately big bucks they would have done better to become sanitation engineers, work for the government, or open a dry cleaning shop. That’s even more true with the higher rents and energy costs in many downtown corridors, and the ability of people to get books cheaply online. The booksellers that will survive are generally those who specialize and build a good relationship with their customers, making their store a destination — great example is Murder by the Book here in Houston — again, those who really love what they do, where it is a passion. Many of these older gents (and a few ladies) would be horrified to learn that they are being lumped in with the folks who sell books for a penny on Amazon.

    While there are literally thousands and thousands of specialized and used booksellers with 100s to low thousands of books available, there are probably only a few hundred online booksellers who have many thousands of books available, disdainfully referred to by the long-time dealers as “”penny sellers” or “postage sellers” (since they make their profit through postage and handling costs).” I doubt many of them will want to go to Bookmooch. The assumption is that they would post crap, and then get something rare that they can trade for big bucks. Except that goes against their business model.

    These pennyseller businesses pay fractions of a cent for books by John Grisham, etc., then arrange with companies like UPS to charge them a lower rate for postage. It’s all about volume. They make money shipping hundreds of books a day but only making $1-3 profit on each one. Think about how long it takes to pull and then wrap, then post a few thousand books a week, but only have the profit coming in to run a tight skeleton crew, often a husband and wife and part-time staff. These people usually don’t have the time or knowledge to request a rare hardback and then sell it for big bucks. That’s why you see some people with scanners at FOPL (friends of the public library) sales. Sometimes they work for a big company like Powell’s. Either way, they don’t know enough about books or have a specialty where they can judge what the books are worth on sight; they need tools. Books are just another commodity to them. When they do find some rare books, penny sellers are as likely to sell them dirt cheap on Amazon or their site, because their profit model is about high volume and making money off the postage markup, not holding something until the right buyer comes along. This is a very labor-intensive, tough way to make a living — for a good example of what this does to ya, read about Jay and Marie, the old one cent cd team on eBay, who worked 7 day, 12 hour weeks for years.

    The more traditional bookselling folks would be perfectly good BM citizens. Let’s say you’re a dealer from the old school and run a tiny shop in Great Barrington. You bartered and bought some boxes of books from other sellers and folks who walked in off the street. In those boxes, you have some books that are not going to sell, because they’re paperback mysteries, and your store specializes in nonfiction books about New England, and military history. Someone orders a copy of “Murder Must Advertise” from you – a reprint in great condition that would cost $9 on Amazon – and you send it to them. You turn around and request a Bruce Catton book, one that there are many copies of on Bookmooch, not rare, not hard to find, but which you think will appeal to your walk-in customers, and which you can sell for $4. It might take you seven months to sell that book, though. Whereas the person who gets the “Murder Must Advertise” might have gotten a great $9 book in trade for something they got at a garage sale last month for 90 cents. And, you know, as long as everyone trades the books they claim to have, and doesn’t game the system, they’re both okay. How do you know, after all, that the person who got “Murder Must Advertise” might not go and sell it on eBay for $6, or for $2 at a garage sale? The point is, we don’t know.

    Believe me when I say it is unfair to assume all stores and sellers would join BM for the same reason. One of my acquaintances is a store owner in rural Canada who has to drive many hours to stock her store. Bookmooch would give her a chance to barter for books her local customers want to read. Like the average reader who participates, she has no way of competing with a big “penny seller” who can afford to buy a dump truck full of mass market paperbacks.

  105. Megan said

    I’d love to have bookstores join, but I’m torn about how many points they should get for listing. I know that small bookstores have advantages, but I also know they’re more likely to be struggling financially, and I’d like to see them supported rather than running out of business. I definitely think that with any inventory over 1000, people should have a 2:1 ratio. For smaller inventories from individual members, maybe a 2.5:1 ratio to start is a good idea (for the first month or something). That was hard at first, but my books have been going fast, and now it’s easy for me to maintain.

  106. […] for every book given. Note that sending internationally counts as 3 books in your ratio. This idea was vigorously discussion in November 2007, and the consensus was that a stricter enforced ratio would cut back on the […]

  107. […] that “everyone will eventually end up with a bunch of points they can’t use.”Β  And, this comment captures the inflation issue as well; lots of other good ideas in that thread, including limiting […]

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