Amazon should love us

February 27, 2008

As you know, BookMooch doesn’t charge its members to use it: the only expense is to the postal service.

BookMooch’s only source of income (since I don’t take advertising, either) is when someone is on a book details page and they click


to read more about the book (such as Amazon’s book reviews) and then go on to buy something at Amazon (maybe that book, maybe something else).

This is a very “soft-sell” approach on my part, mainly because I do BookMooch for the love of it, and not to make a profit, and I don’t want BookMooch to be a shop, or “e-commerce destination” or what-have-you.

Nonetheless, it’s nice to cover one’s expenses, which for BookMooch are $500 a month to the Internet hosting company I use, about $4000 for the big machine I bought over the summer, and $800 in minimum taxes for the honor of being incorporated in the US.

So, does BookMooch lose money? The good news is no, I just squeeze by those Amazon referral payments, which I’ll be detailing below.

The reason I’m writing this blog now is that I have a shiny new email from Amazon telling me my quarterly payment is in. It was larger than expected, so I thought I’d do some analysis, of BookMooch’s 18 months of existence.

this first chart shows how many clicks to Amazon occur each day, because of BookMooch:


You can see that we’ve just about tripled the number of clicks to Amazon, from 1000-a-day to the current 3000-a-day. You’ll also notice big bumps around christmas both years.

The black line, which you’ll see in most of these charts, is a 30-day rolling average, to smooth out the data.

This next chart shows the number of unique visitors (ie, people, rather than the number of clicks) to Amazon from BookMooch:


it looks quite similar to the total-clicks report, as you might expect it should.

This next chart shows the number of purchases (orders) per day at Amazon, because of BookMooch:

Ama Order

it’s grown a bit faster than the number of visitors or clicks, which is interesting. We’ve gone from 10 purchases a day, to 40 per day, which is a 4x growth, compared to the 3x growth of the visitors to Amazon.

This chart shows the percentage of BookMooch visitors to Amazon who buy something. You can see a very strong “seasonal trend”, i.e. people are much more likely to buy around christmas time.


Switching over to a different report at Amazon, which shows payments to BookMooch. The raw data looks like this:

Date Amount
9/5/06 $420.56
10/5/06 $432.42
11/5/06 $432.42
12/5/06 $432.42
3/1/07 $558.20
4/6/07 $531.32
5/2/07 $505.10
6/1/07 $1,063.77
7/2/07 $674.62
8/4/07 $673.70
9/4/07 $667.04
10/2/07 $813.62
11/4/07 $760.98
12/3/07 $948.04
1/2/08 $956.80
2/2/08 $1,389.28

The first two payments were quarterly, and in 2007 Amazon switched to monthly payments. BookMooch existed for only one month (September) in 2006, so I left that number alone, but the Q4 2006 number, I divided by 3 and put into 3 months, so the chart would work.

In chart form, this looks like:


The numbers are going up, which I like (grin).

If you do some basic math, you can see that Amazon is paying BookMooch about $10,000 a year. Since my expenses yearly are:

* $6000/year for internet hosting
* $4000 for a new machine (bought in fall 2007)
* $800/year in taxes

The $10,000 that Amazon pays more-or-less covers all my expenses. Super!

And, the curve is going up, which is good news, because I will need to buy more machines in the future, probably in about 6 months, to handle the continuing growth in BookMooch usage.

I think Amazon should be happy with us, since we sell about $10,000 a month worth of books for them, and this has been rising nicely over the past year:


Since BookMooch is paid an 8% commission, I worked backwards on this data to determine how much Amazon was selling.

Every day, BookMooch helps Amazon sell between $300 and $400 worth of books, though lately this number has been climbing, as you can see:


If you’re interested in the source data behind these charts, you can download the excel spreadsheet that has both the data and the charts.

42 Responses to “Amazon should love us”

  1. Selene said

    Nice =D
    I always use Bookmooch to search for books and then click on the Amazon link [since BM still loads faster than the Amazon site for me and that way]. And when I send those links to other people they always have the ‘bookmooch’ thing in the link.

  2. Kirk said

    You should mayeb contact Amazon with this information; maybe they’ll give BM some promotion? Obviously, they want people to buy rather than mooch, but they look at the long-term effects, and would be likely to realize that BM is good for them.


  3. That’s great – but you should be using Resovler One for your spreadsheets. 😉

  4. Mark Murphy said

    Count me among those BM users who wish there was some *other* way to contribute to covering BM’s operating costs. After spending considerable time researching the right title to purchase based on price, customer reviews, and the like, the *last* thing I’m going to think of doing is “oh, yeah, I need to get out of Amazon, head over to BookMooch, search for a book that’s way too new and popular for it to possibly be available, click the [Amazon Info] link, and order it that way”.

    I’ve gotten the distinct impression that you’re opposed to the PayPal “tip jar”, and that’s your call. Perhaps the next time you have equipment to purchase, though, maybe you could run it through (or the equivalent) and solicit contributions that way. You get the advantage of more cash while asking for it for concrete reasons; we get the advantage of being able to contribute at a time we’re more likely to think of contributing (e.g., when you ask).

  5. MissaB26 said

    I’m perfectly willing to go through BookMooch to Amazon to help out. How exactly does it work? Does BookMooch get credit for the whole order if I start here? What’s the best way to get you the most credit?

  6. smittydoodle said

    i bought some schoolbooks over amazon this year, and i was about to buy them when i remembered your commission thing. so i redid the whole order, going through bookmooch this time, and voilaaaaa! it was kind of fun because i’m a huge dork.

  7. Chelsea Kerr said

    Well, I guess I’m the flip side of Mark Murphy. Being a single, stay-at-home parent w/ very limited funds & a kid who absolutely LOVES to read (At least, one thing I know I’ve done right as a parent), I am thrilled to have found BookMooch and have the only cost be the postage to send out bks. :)And I have to say Thanks for makinf it so affordable for me 🙂
    On the other hand, I didn’t know the you/the site received anything for us clicking Amazon. Guess what, that’ll be my “contribution”, rather than immediately adding by hand.

  8. Laura said

    First, thank you for keeping BM advertising free.

    How are the purchases tracked? For example, I might click on Amazon info to read about a book. Then I’ll get distracted and buy a DVD while I’m surfing Amazon. Does that count toward BM?

    If that’s the case, I’ll make sure to go to BM first and then navigate to Amazon.

  9. … and people claim that online trading hurts book sales. *snort*

  10. Tessa Foris said

    That’s pretty interesting!

    Just want to say THANK YOU for providing this unique & wonderful service.
    I am loving it!


  11. Joe said

    Same as Selene… I use bookmooch to search b/c it always loads quicker.

    I appreciate the BookMooch website and service, so, as a favor to you, today, I will purchase three books off my BookMooch Wishlist FROM

    (PLease note, I kinda planned on this anyways, but this just makes me feel better about the purchase) 🙂

  12. Crystal said

    Hi there,

    I agree with Mark Murphy, when it comes time for your next big machine, please consider letting the community contribute. Bookmooch has been perfect for cleaning off my bookshelves (and filling them right back up again!), it would be fun to contribute to its growth in a direct way.

  13. Dan Ruffolo said

    “… and people claim that online trading hurts book sales. *snort*”

    That’s some dangerous logic though. Sure, people go from bookmooch to amazon and generate about $350 dollars in sales, but if you factor in the cost of all books that -could- be bought from amazon and are mooched for free instead, we probably make them 350 and fail to make them several thousand. Obviously not all of those people mooching would buy the book if it weren’t for bookmooch (Or why would we use Bookmooch?) but if I pirate 500 CDs, and like 1 of them enough to go buy it instead, I “Made” them 20 bucks, but does that actually justify pirating as being good for the music industry?

    That said, I’m really glad that this arrangement is making enough to cover the costs of running the site, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to some kind of means to donate, or some kind of way to subscribe for non-superior perks (IE. To get things that don’t make it easier or more profitable to use the site than ‘free’ users, but that still motivate someone to donate [So things as simple as a “Supporter” tag under one’s username, as opposed to things like advance notice on wishlist filling])

  14. Wen said

    Financial transparency is AWESOME!

  15. angelhair45 said

    That is great. My husband and I were trying to figure out how you made any money from this site. I’m happpy to see your expenses are being covered. I love this site, my favorite of all the swap sites.

  16. Wanda said

    I love how bookmooch works so interchangeably with amazon since I both purchased and sold there before I joined. I like the bookmooch wishlist FAR better than theirs as I discovered that I had a lot of books on my wishlist there 2 or 3 times when I transferred it over! So, I will continue to keep my wishlist here, even though I know that I will probably have to purchase some of them through amazon to get a copy. It’s win-win. Amazon will still get sales to me, I can mooch copies of some books, I have a wishlist I can manage, bookmooch can now make some money off of my purchases!

  17. Crystal said

    Dan R. said: “Sure, people go from bookmooch to amazon and generate about $350 dollars in sales, but if you factor in the cost of all books that -could- be bought from amazon and are mooched for free instead, we probably make them 350 and fail to make them several thousand.”

    For me anyway, the opposite is true. I buy more novels from Amazon than before because of bookmooch. I’ve swapped for a number of novels that I was curious about but wouldn’t have paid for. Now I want to enjoy the authors’ series and will use Amazon to fill in gaps not fulfilled by bookmooch. Wouldn’t have started the new series without the “free sample” via swap…

  18. Dan Ruffolo said

    “For me anyway, the opposite is true. I buy more novels from Amazon than before because of bookmooch. I’ve swapped for a number of novels that I was curious about but wouldn’t have paid for. Now I want to enjoy the authors’ series and will use Amazon to fill in gaps not fulfilled by bookmooch. Wouldn’t have started the new series without the “free sample” via swap…”

    This is true, and the usual justification made by people who support free exchange of otherwise coptwritten material. The problem with it is that, if there were -no- free exchange going on whatsoever, you would inevitably have to buy something new for lack of anything else to access. Thus the popularity of bargain bins and other discounts and sales, you can take a less fiscally deep chance on something. Free is better than cheap in terms of trying something out, and many do, when they find something new, pay for the rest because they like it. They also check bookmooch first and see how much of the series they can get for free *grin*

  19. Ditto, Wen!

    And I, too, love the fact that this site is an ad-free zone. In fact, I had never consciously noticed the lack of banners and things before… but now I suddenly realize why I find BookMooch so soothing! Thanks. 🙂

  20. Luke said

    You know what’s even cooler? I believe ANYTHING you buy on Amazon can be through referral from BM — not just books I mean. Go to Amazon through BM by clicking on Amazon Info for any old book you choose. Now, open another browser tab and go straight to Amazon and find another item you wish to buy that is NOT a book. In the address line of the browser, you can compare the two pages. Cut the item number from that address bar of the Amazon page you navigated to directly and paste it in onto the page you went through BM: just substitute one item# for the other and press return. Viola, you now end up at that non-book item page but the address field lists BM as your referral source. Just last week I bought a $150 external hard drive this way; I am assuming BM gets 8% of that purchase price.

    A little complicated but it feels SO good 🙂

    Thanks John for this awesome site!

  21. Alejandro said

    I read these posts that say buying used or mooching “hurts” publishers and book sellers. So fucking what? I hurt plenty and you don’t hear me bitching about it. Better Amazon get hurt than me.

  22. Winna said

    I bought a lot of books from Amazon ever since I was a member of BookMooch, whenever I couldn’t find something I liked in here.

    That makes a lot of sense. Good for you! COngratulations!

  23. Jo said

    Until you said about there being no ads on BookMooch I can’t say I had noticed!

    I’m always going from BookMooch to Amazon to look at the info about a book or to purchase it.

    I’m glad that you are benefiting from my addictive compulsion to read!!! 🙂

  24. Julie said

    One of the things I appreciate most about bookmooch is that it is free of advertising. After all, bookmooch is not about materialism or consumerism, but the desire to share books with other book lovers.

    That said, I would much rather contribute to the next round of system upgrades than change the business model of the site. Just think, with as many people participate, even if a small percentage contributed just $1, it would go a long way to meeting those costs.

  25. Peggy T said

    I use Amazon like I used to Consumer Reports Magazine.
    Researching before I decided to buy works for me.
    Glad BookMooch helps them get sales and they help BookMooch keep its operating expenses in the black.
    Thanks for your hard work.
    I have a feeling that computer is going to be needed before 6 months!

  26. Crystal said

    Dan said: “Free is better than cheap in terms of trying something out, and many do, when they find something new, pay for the rest because they like it. They also check bookmooch first and see how much of the series they can get for free *grin*”

    That is ~absolutely~ true 🙂

  27. Stephen said

    Bookmooch is awesome because: Lots of schools and charities can acquire books that they may not otherwise be able to get, our old books are brought back to life by new readers, the use of the internet is used to promote a healthy activity – reading!, we can “meet” new people from all over the world, and we are recycling! Thanks Bookmooch! We love you!

  28. I don’t think the logic presented is dangerous or invalid. I think Bookmooch generates more general interest in and excitement over reading, thus the increase in book sales. And yet, most of us have a certain budget for new books that we try to stick to over the year. I do. Bookmooch lets me read more books than I could afford to otherwise. I simply would not make additional purchases from Amazon beyond the norm due to budgetary restrictions. But because I’m getting excited about books and thinking about what I want, I’m more likely to think of or come across a book that I really want that I can’t find on bookmooch and go over to Amazon and make the purchase, and as a side-effect increase the amount I spend on books from Amazon somewhat, increase my informal book expenditure budgeting due to increased awareness and heightened excitement. And I’m guessing that happens to a lot of members. Book nuts are nuts about books.
    That’s my two cents.

  29. barbara j. rios said

    I even went further than buying at Amazon: I ordered a credit card after swearing I would never charge anything again. I’ll still keep my oath because books are not a luxury, they are a necessity. Amazon won’t like my anyway because I pay off each month. So BookMooch will get lots of points and Amazon won’t earn any interest. Seems fair.

  30. Trish Marie said

    Love the transparency John–gosh, it’s so rare to find people who are so upfront about what they are doing and what they are (and are not) making from it. I’m really happy to hear that the Amazon sales are covering expenses–hopefully they might even turn a profit in the future (I know that’s not your goal, but it would be well deserved should it happen). I’ve gone through BookMooch to buy Amazon books ever since I joined up, and will continue to do so. Thanks again for providing all of us with this wonderful site!

  31. LizA said

    I wish there was a way for me to participate in this money raising sheme, esp. since I buy a lot of new books – but I buy from and the amazon info always takes me to I guess this is a different business and they do not do the percentage thing, but I thought to ask anyway – maybe there is a way to make my click count?

  32. Dorryn said

    If I liked Amazon, and/or could afford it, I wouldn’t need Bookmooch. I still prefer to get my books here, or used somewhere else. Amazon may have a huge selection, but their customer service lacks. Thats why I pretty much only buy from amazon if I cant find it ANYWHERE else; it’s just not worth it.

    It’s great to get referral payments that support Bookmooch, though!

  33. Donna said

    Hi John,

    Just wanted to add my thanks for what you are doing! I was all set to order something from Amazon tonight but got distracted and ended up back here on Bookmooch. Glad I never started that Amazon order before I read your post! 🙂

    Glad you are here!

  34. Jo said

    First off, there’s another Jo???

    Second, think it is wonderful that costs are being covered. I am very happy to have read this blog though, because I wasn’t really aware of all of these details. Now that I am I will be more certain to go this route when using Amazon (assuming Amazon ever ges its act together and fixes my account).

    John, you have created such a wonderful service here. Thanks for all you do.

  35. Mary Anne said

    There’s a difference between pirating CDs or anything else that exists in an electronic format and selling/swapping/donating something that exists in a physical form only. Electronic media can be copied endlessly with no benefit to the creators or producers. Physical media can be in the possession of only one person at a time. Hence, the long-time existence of used book stores, antique stores, collectible stores, flea markets, etc., etc. Of course, it’s not always fair to the artist. For example, there are artworks for which an artist received a pittance that later became hugely valuable, but that’s the way the system has “always” worked. The advent of electronic media hugely complicates the copyright issue, and it will undoubtedly take a while to work out what is fair to everyone.

    I sometimes have qualms about the used book thing because I know a number of authors who certainly don’t make much money for their efforts. However, I disagree with any author who believes that their book has sold in small quantities because it can be bought in a UBS. After all, the availability of any book in the used book world, off- or on-line, is proportional to how many copies of that book are sold to begin with. If you want to be _sure_ to get a book that has not been published in large quantities, you will need to buy it new. Similarly, if you want to be positive you’ll read a best seller when it’s first out, you’ll need to purchase it. In the end, I think many authors are helped by the phenomenon referred to previously–that lots of people are willing to take a chance on a book that is free or a bargain that they would not purchase at the regular price. I picked up my first J.D. Robb in a UBS, dubious that I would like it but intrigued by others’ comments. Now I buy her books as soon as they appear in the bookstores.

  36. Helen said

    I reckon you should offer some BookMooch shirts or something, maybe via CafePress – I’d certainly buy one! I tell lots of people about BookMooch, simply because it’s a wonderful site and service. I had two BM mooches delivered to work on Friday, and so a few colleagues nearby were told about it 😉

    As for hurting publishers – if I didn’t get it via BookMooch, I’d get it via the library, so they’re still not getting my money. But BookMooch is more flexible for me – I can do a Post Office trip at a weekend, whereas a trip to the library means I have to either take half a Saturday to get into town and back (and then again to return the books), or leave work early twice. Mooching actually fits into my lifestyle (9-5, public transport dependent) better than library-going.

    I’ll investigate the BM referrals to Amazon now, if I know you’re getting money for it! Considering everything you’ve done to get BM working so well – not just the financial input (without being sure you’d get it covered), but the time and effort, it’s little enough to do in return, buying via the referral system!

  37. gemmas said

    Bookmooch t-shirts via CafePress? Yes please do! I would by one!

  38. Stuart Campbell said

    I just want to point out to us all that while John’s direct costs of equipment and other expenses are being covered, his time and commitment to the site are not being similarly covered. We all know that he spends a lot of his time and know-how on the site, and he does it out of his love for it, and for the contribution it makes to each of us, the several charities that participate, and even some libraries. Thank you, John. Your efforts are deeply appreciated by lots of people.

  39. galaxysong said

    If we click on “amazon info”, this only takes us to the US website. How about those BMers who want to buy off Amazon via BM, but live in a different country (eg I use Should you not be able to click on “amazon info” and be directed to your nearest amazon supplier? I would like to help contribute to BM’s funding in this way..

  40. Vanessa said

    I’m in Canada . . . Amazon must know I’m coming from a Canadian location because when I do click the Bookmooch link, it will take me to the US-based info and also includes a “Do you really want to be on Amazon Canada?” message somewhere on the page with a link to the “.ca” version. So I wonder if Amazon’s site structure is smart enough to hold on to the “I came from Bookmooch” factor if someone starts on the US site and navigates via an internal link to the proper subsidiary site. Not sure, but I think I’ll try it from now on — it can’t hurt. 🙂

  41. jaymoore5 said

    I’ve notived a few comments about Bookmooch merchandise. I’ve had Bookmooch travel mugs available in my store for about a year. If anyone is interested, here is the url.

    For Bookmooch to get the Amazon referral credit in addition to his commission from me, search for B000RL9SUA on the search Amazon link here on Bookmooch.


  42. Mike Comer said

    Yep – I’ll try even more now to use Mooch as a portal to Amazon (my source of any media I can’t get from Mooch).


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