BM beyond the USA

March 26, 2008

How International is BookMooch?

28% of active members, and 32% of book titles are from outside the USA.

These percentages are about the same as when I last looked at them 15 months ago.

Here are some charts showing books and people outside the USA, all taken by putting the “Browse by country” pages into excel.

Below is the percentage of members who are not in the USA. One thing that’s interesting, is that despite this being a chart of the top 12 countries, the remaining 104 countries represented on BookMooch account for 25% of the non-USA members. That shows that members are very distributed around the planet.

United Kingdom: 25.4%
Other: 24.5%
Canada: 14.5%
Australia: 10.8%
Singapore: 5.0%
Italy: 3.2%
Philippines: 2.6%
France: 2.6%
Ireland: 2.5%
Germany: 2.5%
Spain: 2.3%
Finland: 2.1%
India: 2.0%


Books being traded are predominantly in English (93%). Of the 7% that are not in English, French (30%) and German (27%) dominate the non-English books.


Of the 32% of the books available (in whatever language) from outside the USA, three countries (UK, Canada, Australia) contribute 51% of the books. The “other” line (12%) represents all the books available from countries below the top-20. 88% of the books are provided by the top 20 countries.


Is BM growing?

March 25, 2008

This weekend, while at an Annie Liebovitz exhibit in San Francisco, my friend and BookMooch member Cary asked the simple question “Is BookMooch growing?”

I didn’t really have an answer. Well, let me rephrase that. I know BookMooch is growing, by looking at the charts (ie, more members, more books) but is BookMooch growing at an increasing rate? Ay, that’s the rub.

Math geeks call this number the “first derivative”, and humanities majors call it “the rate at which change is changing”.

At BookMooch, all the chart data is easily downloaded into an excel spreadsheet, so I did that for a few different measurements about members, books and mooches.

Below are the quickie-charts I made. All the lines are “smoothed” by using a “trailing 30 days” method (the past 30 days are averaged), and all show the rate of change.

Ok, enough introductions, here’s what I found.


This shows that BM has historically been adding 100 members per day, and recently this bumped up and is stable at around 150 members per day. These are people who create an account, and doesn’t worry about whether they do anything useful with that account, so this is a very rough measure.


This is the net growth in members, per day, who list books. In other words, this is the number of new members who actually list books to give away, minus the members who close their accounts, empty their inventory, go on vacation or have their accounts forced into vacation by virtue of inactivity.

So, this is a pretty good measure of the daily growth of active members per day.

Eyeballing the trend, it looked to me like growth might be declining, so I added the red trend line, which is a linear regression. The trend line indeed shows a declining growth rate for the first 400 days of BookMooch’s life, with the past 150 or so days showing a rise.

One reason this trend might be declining is that BookMooch initially didn’t have any way of retiring abandoned accounts. About a year ago (around day #240), this was introduced: if someone doesn’t respond to a mooch request of yours within a certain amount of time, they get put on vacation and their inventory is emptied. If that’s the case, then the decline might be due to cleaning up the first year’s worth of members. You can see a very sharp decline when the feature was introduced around day 240.


This chart shows the net growth in members who have given a book. This is a good measurement of each day’s gains, ignoring the effect of the past. With this chart, you can clearly see that the past 100 days have been very strong, with the growth rate doubling from 40 new members adding books to 80 new members adding books. If you compare this chart vs chart #1, you can see that the number of new members varies quickly, but that often a blip gives us a lot of new members who don’t do anything with their accounts (such as the recent big blip from 150 to 200 new members per day)

The rate at which new members who actually give a book are added to BM is pretty stable and doesn’t vary that much, and is very clearly trending upwards.


This chart shows the net increase is book titles available per day. When a book is mooched or someone goes on vacation or closes their account, this number goes down. This growth number isn’t increasing, and you can see the effect of heavy mooching during christmas (I assume, for gifts). At the current rate, this is an increase of about 200,000 book titles per year.


The number of mooches per day is growing very quickly, with the only downturn being the spring of 2007, when the BookMooch service got really slow to use.

This is a really interesting trend and shows increasing commitment and interest from existing members. People are mooching more and more.

Now, this is really nerdy:


this is the 2nd derivative of the mooches per day. In plain english, this chart shows the rate at which the rate of change is changing.

Still confused? What this shows is that mooches per month have been growing at a steady rate for a long time, but in the past 100 days, the mooches per month is increasing at an increasing rate. People are trading more books, and increasing their number of trades at an increasing amount.

Ok, data overload, I’m done.

My conclusions?

Yes, BookMooch is growing, and according to some measurements, at a growing rate, while according to others, BM is growing at a consistent rate.

Members: we’re adding about 150 new members per day, but since there are so many members who become inactive, this yields a net growth of about 30 new and active members per day. However, this “weight of the past” of old members is getting cleaned up, and might be coming to an end, as the number of new members who give a book is growing rapidly, doubling in the past 100 days.

Books: we’re adding about 500 new titles per day, but this rate is not growing.

Mooches: the mooches-per-day rate is growing very quickly. People must be reading more, or getting an increasing number of their monthly books from BookMooch.

Feedback heard

March 18, 2008

Thanks everyone for the extensive feedback on yesterday’s blog post, detailing all the changes I had made to BookMooch.

Based on the comments, I’ve made a few changes:

  • The width of the screen is back to 100%, ie the width of your web browser, rather than being fixed at the narrower size.
  • The mooch ratio no longer shows up at all on the bio page of charities, whereas previously it was in bright red. It’s not relevant for verified charities. For the same reason, the mooch emails from verified charities no longer say “- received books, but never given any books” on the mooch notification.
  • I reworked the page which follows after the “book related to one on your wishlist” email. It now looks like this:


    you can compare this to yesterday’s version:


    Hopefully you’ll agree with me that the separate grouping for the “stop email” buttons makes sense, as well as the new wording on each choice.

    The “mooch this book” button is back (no more “get this book”) – thanks for all your comments!

  • BookMooch changes

    March 17, 2008

    A new version of BookMooch went up today, with lots of small things fixed and changed, and a few bigger things.

    Big changes

  • Wishlist notification emails – the wishlist emails have several new features. You can now opt out of notifications of related editions for a single book. Previously, it was all or nothing: either receive all related edition notification emails, or none. I particularly wanted this feature, because I have many Dilbert books on my wishlist, and I’m always being (mis) notified about other Dilbert books which have a few of the same comics in them, thus making them related editions, but not interesting to me.

    Secondly, the wishlist emails have been greatly simplified and come as an HTML email. If your email program can’t display HTML email, you will automatically see the older-style all-text message. Here is what the HTML message looks like.


    you can see that I’ve greatly simplified this message. The use of HTML was not to make the emails prettier or flashier, but rather to make them cleaner, more minimal, and remove all the visible URLs.

    I’ve also moved most of the links and options onto a page you get if you click “more options”. It looks like this:


    The related editions email has an extra line, and tells you the publisher of both the edition on your wishlist, and also the edition that is available. I did this because most frequently, I find that the publisher is what’s different between two editions, so it’s an easy way to see how the two books are related but different.


    The “more options” page for related-edition emails has quite a few more choices. I’m not entirely happy with the complexity of this page, but for now I’ll let it stand, as the options are all useful.


    n.b. this page was improved the next day thanks to member feedback.

  • Mooch notification emails – I also greatly simplified the email you receive when someone mooches from you, using HTML email (if you can’t display HTML email, the text version will display automatically). Here is what the new email looks like:


  • 2:1 mooch ratio – you must now maintain a ratio no worse than 2 books received 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 few-but-annoying abuses which sometimes occur. The consensus also was that people who send books internationally should not be penalized by this ratio change, and that’s why in November a brand new way of calculating your mooch ratio was created and a new page at BM for showing it. In November, we found that around 98% of members were under the 3:1 ratio, and about 95% were under a 2:1 ratio, and that most of the members that were above the 2:1 ratio were currently inactive anyway. So, I don’t expect that this 2:1 ratio change will effect very many existing BookMooch members.

    Small changes

  • mooch this book button – I relabeled the “mooch this book” button on the book details page to be “get this book”. I made this change for a few reasons, a) many newcomers’ first impression of BM is a book details page, and if they don’t know the word “mooch” or how we mean it ironically, it’s confusing, and b) for non-American speakers, the word “mooch” doesn’t make a lot of sense in this context (“mooch” in British English means “to hang around”). I’m still using the word “mooch” this the sense of “get” elsewhere on the site, but I decided to gently introduce it. Also, I spaced the “get this book” button apart from the other buttons, as it’s the most important button on the page, and there are both many other options and they are not as important.


  • Sex and Linux – previously, if you searched for “Linux”, the #2 related search was “sex”. This was caused, quite correctly, by the fact that the same people who searched for “linux” did frequently search for books with “sex”. I thought this wasn’t a particularly helpful correlation to make, so now the top “sex” related searches aren’t correlated to any other search terms. n.b. : I’m reading a book about Google and other search companies, and evidently sex-related searches are about 12% of the use of Google, so naturally this presents a special case for algorithms which find similarities in a mathematical way.
  • Close & vacation swapped – I received an email complaint that the “close” button, being right next to the “log out” button, was very easy to mis-click, and caused this person anxiety. Yes, there’s another page after the close button, where you have to enter an author-name to proceed, but nonetheless it was worrying them–being so close to closing their BM account– that they wondered if I could change something. So, I made a very small change, swapping the position of the vacation and close buttons, so that not only is the vacation button right next to the close button now (so if you accidentally click it, the anxiety level is lower, since going on vacation is reversible) but the label text next to vacation is much shorter than the log out button label, so it’s easier to tell them apart


  • New 13 digit ISBNS – previously you could not hand-enter a book that used a 13 digit ISBN. This is now fixed.
  • Wishlist remove page jump – previously, if you removed a book from a secondary page on your wishlist, you would get moved back to the first page of your wishlist (which was annoying). This is now fixed.
  • rejected mooches in points log – when a mooch is rejected and the .1 point deducted from your points if you indicate the book should be removed, the person who requested the mooch is no longer mentioned in the points log, as this caused confusion for some members.
  • never giving, fixed – there was a weird case, where someone could join BookMooch, get lots of points by typing in books, and as long as they didn’t get any mooches, their ratio stayed at “zero” because “giving divided by receiving” would be an illogical number (you can’t divide by zero). If they got a mooch, then their ratio would start to make sense. The new way it works is that now you can mooch only one book, and no more, until you get at least one mooch request. In cases where you mooch a book, and have no-one asking you for a book, your ratio is immediately calculated as 10:1, so that no more mooching is allowed.
  • fixed width pages – all pages at BM now have a fixed screen width, which fits inside the width of the top-of-page navigation. Previously, many pages would widen with the browser, and I had done this on purpose, so that wider screens could display more data. However, I’ve since decided that this varying-page-width looks sloppy, so now everything is nice, neat and tight. (n.b. this has been changed back)
  • Country API – for programmers only, the “mooch” API call now requires a “country” field to be specified, which is the country where the book will be sent.
  • Delayed sending on points page – on the “explanation of your points” page, there was a line that said “Delayed sending: 0” that always appeared. This line was always zero, and made no sense, and was a mistake of mine. It’s been removed.
  • French emails better – I received a number of corrections to the French (translated) emails and applied them. If you are using BM in another language and get emails with translation mistakes, please email me corrected translations and I’ll apply them.
  • Mooch rejection – the mooch rejection email didn’t include the reason given for the rejection, now it does.

    That’s a lot of changes, mostly small, and I’ve tested quite a bit. But, if you see any bugs or problems with anything, please leave a comment on this blog entry.

  • New BM version today

    March 17, 2008

    BookMooch will be slow for about an hour while the new version starts up.

    I’ll be blogging over the next few hours about the changes in this version.


    Six arms to eat right

    March 14, 2008

    A few weeks ago, I reported on how The Independent Newspaper was running a story and including BookMooch because of the crazy photo of “John as the book-giving deity” that I had made up.

    As fate would happen, I was walking to have lunch in London at branding-agency Wolff Olins (ironically, the people who got me the story in the Independent) and came across this poster a block from them:


    which is eerily similar to my photo:

    Shiva Color2-1

    The area where I saw this poster is an immigrant neighborhood, and the poster is made by the government health service (NHS) so I’m guessing they’re making a respectful cultural allusion, as I was with my poster, and were very aware of what they were doing.

    A while back, when I made my photo, I was very concerned that it might be mistaken as culturally insensitive. Now, I think that if the UK government thinks it’s ok, I’m probably safe.

    And then on sunday I went to an utterly incomprehensible art exhibit titled at the Barbican London Centre titled “Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art”


    The idea of which was that Martians have put on exhibit of significant (to them) human contemporary art, complete with explanatory cards that might be helpful to a Martian. The first exhibit was a suspended, gold-plated urinal.

    At any rate, one of the better (?) pieces was this crazy alien Shiva sculpture, holding eyeballs.


    I think this sculpture “one-upped” me on weirdness.

    Small bug fixes

    March 9, 2008

    A number of small things were also fixed today, here is a list (this is only interesting to the hyper-detail-oriented nutcases like me)

    • The + symbol should work on email addresses of BM members, such as “” — the +xxxxx feature is a common one in email programs and serves as a “comment”, with the email actually being delivered to
    • the “force received” email notification was mentioning a two week wait before you’re allowed to force a book as received (in cases where the book sender isn’t responding). That wasn’t right, it’s actually 12 weeks.
    • The mooch rejection email notification wasn’t including the reason for the rejection in the notification to the moocher. That’s fixed.
    • If you reject a mooch, and indicate that the book should be deleted from your inventory so no-one else can mooch it, you lose the .1 points you had earned adding that book to your inventory. Previously, you didn’t lose the .1 points.
    • the “you’ve sent a reminder” email to the book owner you’re mooching from, had wrong email address – it gave a link to send yourself email, rather than sending to the book owner.
    • The country name is now displayed after each user name, rather than the abbreviated country name, for example: “from: meliza153 (Singapore), Ruthie (United Kingdom), Kate Simonian (Australia), Versavisa (United Kingdom)” – I found that many people were confused by the abbreviated names. Note that if a person is from the USA, their state is displayed, like this: “John Buckman (USA: CA)

    I often get the question “are there any BookMooch charities in my country” as well as “are there only four charities available?”

    The problem is that the charity page wasn’t very clear, and it also was a lot of work to find a charity in your country.

    I’ve reworked the charity page a bit, and it now looks like this:


    The way charities receive points on BookMooch is either:

    a) I (me, John, the guy who runs BookMooch) give a specific charity points from one of the four funds I run. Most people give points to the funds, as that gives me the greatest flexibility in handing points out to worthwhile causes. Currently, there are four funds: Public Libraries, a General Fund, Books for Prisons, and Children and new Mothers. Generally, I don’t have to give out from these funds that often, I just help them get started, because the active charities tend to receive gifts from individuals.

    b) you (the BookMooch member) can give points directly to any charity. You can find charities by going to the charity page and clicking the “charities” button next to each fund.

    A few changes I made to the charities page:

  • the explanation of our charities was completely rewritten, and now is: “You can choose to give some of your points to charities, so that they can get books they need. BookMooch runs several funds which give points to specific charities. You can choose to give points to a fund, or browse and give points directly to a specific charity.”
  • the funds no longer say “USA: CA” after them, which mislead people into thinking these were USA charity funds, rather that just meant I had created the BM accounts for those charities when I was in California
  • A “Charities by location” feature was added. You can see that most of the charities are in the USA, but this is not by design: I would love to get more non-USA charities involved.

    Here is a list of all the charities currently on BookMooch, sorted by location:

    Australia: Windana
    Israel: Kaplan Hospital
    Madagascar: Chrysalis School
    New Zealand: Auckland Women’s Centre Library
    Serbia and Montenegro: blackbird books kosovo
    South Africa: iCommons
    USA: Books Through Bars Philadelphia
    USA: CA: Eco-Libris
    USA: CA: Living Free Recovery Literature
    USA: CA: Word Of Life Library
    USA: CA: Willow Creek Library
    USA: CO: Prison Dharma Network
    USA: IL: Creve Coeur library
    USA: IL: Jacksonville Public Library of Illinois
    USA: IN: Not Forgotten Ministries
    USA: IN: Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project
    USA: LA: Books 2 Prisoners
    USA: LA: eLearningK12
    USA: MA: 826 Boston
    USA: MA: Prison Book Program
    USA: MA: The Prison Book Project
    USA: MA: Reader to Reader
    USA: MD: DC Area Books to Prisons
    USA: MD: The Awareness Center, Inc.
    USA: MI: First United Methodist Co-operative Nursery
    USA: MI: La Leche League of Huron County
    USA: NY: Altamont Free Library
    USA: NY: Books Through Bars NYC
    USA: NY: Robert F. Wagner, Jr. School
    USA: OH: Cleveland Rape Crisis Center
    USA: OH: Dar a Luz Network
    USA: PA: Comics 2 Kids!
    USA: PA: Hercules Invictus
    USA: PA: operationpaperback
    USA: TX: CrossPointe Counseling
    USA: TX: Inside Books Project
    USA: TX: Quinlan Library
    USA: VA: Alexandria Law Library
    USA: WI: Butte des Morts Elementary School
    USA: WI: Town Hall Library
    USA: WI: Youth Initiative High School
    USA: WV: Books 4 Kids And Their Providers Project
    United Kingdom: ASDfriendly

    One thing I noticed is that a fair number of these charities are no longer active. That’s a shame, but probably a natural consequence of volunteer churn at these organizations. In the future, I’ll likely institute a policy where a charity loses the points it has accrued if it hasn’t logged in 3 months. We’d give the points back to the charity if they did re-appear, but in the meantime I’d return the points to a charitable fund for others to use.

  • Pending mooches restored

    March 9, 2008

    Two days ago, I blogged about some data loss. Most of the problems related to pending mooches that vanished from your pending page.

    To try to fix this, I wrote a program that audited the list of pending mooches, and checked to see if each person’s pending page was actually showing that mooch. See, I still had a record of the mooch, what I didn’t sometimes have was link to the sender/receiver.

    I ran that program now, and want to share the results with you, in case you are one of the people who will find new pending mooches on your pending page. If you are, hopefully you’ll be happy to see the mooches restored.

    If you’re confused about what to do, please email the tech support volunteers.

    These people will find new things on their pending page, where they were the one receiving the book:

    alcestis, amo, bcash222, bethyg1989, bibliofan, bill2828, bnord, clellybobus, coolboxuk, dav, girlcorrupted, greyowl, haji, hamjak, icequeen1968, irelandapaige, jackiefaniel, jeannamayles, jerster1470, jhmdtm, jinky_jo, karen4191, katpost, kewarn, ldantonio, ldelisi, lislueninghoener, marmitefiend, mattingly23, mawrteresque, mhekerr, miaspeople, micahcf, mrsauk, nan, philmontchick, pinnick, poindexter, rabbrady, rah126, ravenswing, rlacinak, rogers_68, rosie, samwise, sbussinger, scpdchris, sesenkhemet, simonsays056, slhastings, snofferol, srtoomey, stevenorman, strephon, sunfuzzy16, tammyf, terrilee, the1butterfly, theveryidea, tokemise, toomanybooks, tpoid3, veramarie, vetbeth

    These people will find new things on their pending page, where they were the one sending the book:

    adlymo, airycah, anitab, annamb57, annepants, artemis, ashleeallen, bibby, bookcycler, bookdragon2, bookrabbit, branwyn, brucefam, carlon, carolynmb, cassellie, clea, dellydo, denken, dlukenelson, drkbkguy, elexaish, esazama, espengisvold, evilove, fleur, flymamatofive, football, frogprincess, gann, gideonRogers, Gini, girlcorrupted, gremmymariestiffler, greyowl, grod220, haji, hamjak, hoosierbebe, icequeen1968, imissnewwave, Javamsanii, jdefore, jeannamayles, jenblower, jenn, jerster1470, jhmdtm, jinky_jo, jlhlinnell, jliv29, Joracaky, karen4191, katedempsey, katpost, kurt, laura0141, ldantonio, ldelisi, lisaj, lislueninghoener, lmurdock, locaboca, maggie4007, markwp, marmitefiend, mhekerr, miaspeople, micahcf, MissMac, mrsauk, nosikid, philmontchick, pinnick, rabbrady, rah126, ravenswing, rksager, rlacinak, rosie, samwise, sandie, sanjay, sbussinger, scouthayduke, sfree96, slhastings, slicky, snofferol, snowcrash751, sphinx, spstanley, srtoomey, strephon, szbarth, tammyf, terrilee, the1butterfly, theveryidea, tiffness83, tinytracey1970, tokemise, toomanybooks, tpoid3, txqtbrittnye, veramarie, vetbeth, VictoriaPL, wester, xhollyrose, yorshir, zvati, zwoolard

    BookMooch reindexing

    March 7, 2008

    BookMooch is (once again) reindexing itself, so that search is working again, but returning partial results for a few hours until the reindex completes.

    The good news is that this latest incarnation of the reindexer is a lot faster, so I expect it to complete in a few hours, and not the usual 2 days.