Better World Books

May 7, 2008

Cofounders 2
On monday I had dinner with Xavier Helgesen, one of the cofounders of Better World Books. He lives in San Francisco but was coming through London, so we ended up meeting in London rather than our California homes.

What Better World Books does is truly amazing, and deserves all the success it has had, which is considerable, and I think BookMooch is going to work with them in the future.

What they do is work with charities that run book drives, collecting all the books that remain unsold by the charity at the end of the book drive. They then find the best homes they can for those remaining books, either by selling the books (and raising money for the charity or through other charitable donations).

What this concretely means is that they list the books on eBay and Amazon and on their own website, and pay back a significant percentage of any money that comes in from those sales back to the charity. In this way, they greatly increase the amount of money a charity can receive from a book drive, and they also prevents the waste of large numbers of books. I remember reading about how a local hospital sent all the unsold books from their book drive to the trash dump, and how upset I was to learn that.

Of the books that are not sold, if it is a textbook, then it goes to Books for Africa, where extremely current textbooks are really in demand and in short supply.

They also have deals with volume used book purchasers, who will buy the remaining fiction books by the pound. That’s much better then throwing the books away, and the charity of course gets their percentage. Only in the last resort are are the books sent to be recycled.

Their numbers are extremely impressive and posted publicly on their website.

* Collected over 11.4 million books through active book drives at over 1,600 colleges and universities and collections from over 900 libraries

* Raised over $2.8 million for over 80 literacy and education non-profit organizations,

* Raised more than $1.7 million for libraries and thrift stores nationwide

* Directly sent more than 1 million books to Books for Africa, the National Center for Family Literacy, and Feed the Children

* Contributed more than $1 million to college service clubs who have run book drives

And that’s just a subset of what their web page lists.


BookMooch & Better World Books Partnership ideas

Xavier And I got along famously, and came up with several partnership ideas between Better World Books and BookMooch. I’d love to get some feedback on them!

Here is what we are thinking of doing:

* Giving to moochers: Better World Books would become a BookMooch member, and list books (those they cannot sell) for mooching. This helps increase the catalog of books on BookMooch. Eventually they would list almost their entire catalog of 1 million titles! Less books going to the dump, and a better selection for mooching. Initially, they’d start out small, to make sure that moochers are happy with the experience, but since their goal is to find a home for each book they receive, BookMooch is perfect for them.

* Mooching books: By earning these mooch points honestly, they also earn the right to mooch books that they can sell (or send the book to a charity they work with that really needs it). A healthy percentage of those proceeds go to charity. Since they are extremely successful at finding buyers for very obscure books, I think this will help moochers give away books that we don’t yet have an audience for, while both supporting both a business I like and raising money for charities.

* Bulk receiving of books: if you have boxes of books and do not want to bother entering them into BookMooch, Better World Books will accept whatever books you postal mail to them in whatever quantity you want, and pay you in book mooch points. What I suggested is some sort of automated pay scale like this: a) if the book title has been mooched in the past month, then pay a one mooch point, b) if the book title has been mooched in the past six months, then pay one half a much point, otherwise pay .1 mooch points. A lot of people on the forums, and in person to me, have asked if there was a way BookMooch could take a bulk shipment of books off their hands. This would of course be voluntary, and only for people who don’t want to be bothered listing books in BookMooch and sending them one at a time.

Thoughts?


There are a lot of comments on this blog entry, and this morning I was quite pleased to find that Xavier has replied directly on the forum. Since it’s his company being talked about, I’m also reproducing his reply here in the blog body itself, so it gets extra attention:

From: Xavier Helgesen

Hi all-

Thanks for all the feedback. As John mentioned, we had a great discussion, and I’m happy to be involved. We’re definitely looking forward to getting more involved with the BookMooch community and finding ways to add value. The core of our model is creating value for all stakeholders: customers, non-profits, partners, employees and anyone else we work with. I’ll try to address as any questions raised as I can – please let me know if I missed anything. Also, I encourage people to contact me personally. There seems to be a lot of conjecture about what Better World Books is and isn’t online. I’m always happy to have a chat about the company, as I feel very strongly about the positive impact we make, and I don’t see us as any threat to small booksellers. Even if we grew by a factor of 10, we’d be a very, very small part of the book market. My email is pretty easy to guess: xavier at {company URL}

Cam: THANK YOU! Please keep checking with us first for affordable used books – if you email me, I’ll send you the friends & family discount code. Any others reading the comments are welcome to request this as well.

Jon & Ashleigh: Thanks for your posts – that is exactly how I think is the best way for things to work. We’ll act as a responsible member of the community, just like any other.

Regarding shipping books to UK & Canada: This is something that we’re looking strongly at. We’re going to roll the program out first in the USA, and proceed from there. There may be ways we can cover part/all of the cost of shipping to us, but we would have to do it based on the value of the books sent. There are a great deal of books in the world that are very hard to resell and are not of much use to our literacy partners.

Advanced Readers Copies: Those are tough for us, as the publishers really push hard on reselling them, and they are not the final versions of the books. So generally we have to politely decline those books.

Regarding Emily Thayer’s Points: We are a for-profit social venture, and we make no bones about it. We’re very clear about this on our website. We are not a publicly traded company however – we are independent, and owned primarily by founders and employees. We pride ourselves on providing health insurance for all employees after 90 days (which is VERY expensive for a small company like ours) and paying fair wages. We also would love to work with you on a local level – we offer warehouse pickup of books on BetterWorld.com, and we’re happy to work out bulk sales discounts and other arrangements to support our local booksellers. Just follow the bulk sales link on the site. I’m sure if you stopped by and met us, you’d see that we’re nice people, and we’re certainly not a “big business” of the ilk of Wal-Mart.

We are very proud to be part of the Mishawaka community and try to engage any way we can. We encourage our employees to volunteer, and have partnerships including with the Center for the Homeless and the Robinson Community Learning Center. We have also created over 100 jobs in the community, ranging from picking orders to writing software.

Regarding our participation: As I mentioned before, our participation in BookMooch only makes sense to the degree that we add value to the community. If some members want books that there is not enough demand for on our sales channels, and there are other books we can receive in return that our customers do want, that seems to be a win-win to me. As the system is very cleverly designed, we’ll only be able to receive books to the extent that we provide books that members want. I’m not sure yet whether our inventory will be a good match, but I suspect that it will. Also, the program for people to send books in will not be for everyone. We’ll have to see if it is useful, and adjust it if it is not. I can’t see how people could object to it, as it is an optional program and certainly it doesn’t hurt if it exists.

Regarding Mark William’s post: Mark, you rightly mention that Books For Africa is a top-notch publicly accountable charity. The fact that our programs are both the largest source of funding and University-level books for Books For Africa ought to tell you something. We are fully transparent with our non-profit partners, and you can feel free to independently verify this and contact them. I highly encourage anyone who wants to front the postage or lives in the Minneapolis area to donate books direct to Books For Africa. I serve on the board of the organization and it has been an exceptional privilege.

You do have a few facts mixed up – we sell almost all of our books on consignment for non-profits and libraries, and we pay a percentage of gross, not net. The commission varies, since we cover all costs associated with the book collections. Since we are a nationwide program, there are many costs associated with book collection and inbound shipping that are always going to be higher than a local operation. The strength of our program is really the scale – most local booksellers cannot take on 20,000 books at once and sell them effectively. They would typically have to “cherry pick” the best books and recycle the rest. Because of our scale, we are able to handle these kind of volumes, and that is a reason a lot of libraries have chosen to work with us.

Finally, I can assure you that our profits are not in the 10’s of millions. As I’ve mentioned in a blog comment on another site (where they wanted to see the cars and houses of the founders), I rent and don’t own a car. We have relatively small margins after the amount we share with our literacy partners, and reinvest a great deal in our people, our software, and spreading the word about Better World Books.

Sincerely,
Xavier
Co-Founder, Better World Books


John writes: I found the comment below to be really fascinating, so I’m reproducing it in the body of this blog as well:

As a BookMooch charity and a non-profit partner of Better World Books, the Prison Book Program has a unique perspective on this issue.

Better World Books has been selling books we cannot use since 2004 and we have found them to be a great partner. To date they have raised over $25,000 for us which accounts for over 33% of our budget and has funded shipments to more than 8000 prisoners. We get 30% of the revenues for the books they sell on our behalf. Yes, that is relatively small, but when you consider that they pay for everything from the shipping of our books to their warehouse to the handling of the purchases, it is more than fair. We have tried selling books on our own through Amazon, through local booksellers and by running our own book sales. All proved to be far too much effort for way too little gain. BWB brings economy of scale to non-profit book selling in the same way Amazon brings it to book-selling in general. Many may not consider that a good thing, but we most certainly do.

The person that manages our relationship with BWB works in the publishing industry. She has met the CEO and founders and visited their facility in South Bend, Indiana. She found them to be genuinely dedicated to funding literacy efforts and was quite impressed with their operation. They are also a recent recipient of Fast Company Magazine’s social entrepreneur award. I worked for a non-profit that received this award several years in a row. I can say that Fast Company does not award this honor lightly. The recipients are changing the world in powerful ways and are doing it honestly and efficiently.

BookMooch has also been a boon to us in the ~6 months we have been an official charity. We have mooched over 350 books and nearly all of these are so in-demand that they are sent to a prisoner within a week of receiving them. Because of BookMooch we have been able to dramatically improve the quality of reading material we send out. We have mooched dictionaries (which prisoners use to teach themselves to read), almanacs, self-help and religious materials of all kinds, business books and many more. When an inmate learns to read or start a business or gets his GED or improves his mental state, he is far more likely to have a successful life on the outside – and because of legions of generous BookMoochers we are able to provide many more of these hard-to-find titles than we have in the past. Unfortunately, we (and the other prison book charities) regularly clean out BM’s inventory of these books. Having more available would be fantastic!

BWB and BookMooch joining forces would make more of these titles available to everyone. We pre-screen the books we send to BWB to weed out the un-saleable ones – so I am very familiar with the books they deem un-saleable and could become available on BookMooch. While some are the same MMPs that likely are sitting in everyone’s inventories for months, a great number of them are non-fiction titles that would go in minutes on BookMooch.

BWB has increased the quantity of books we send out. BookMooch has improved the quality. Working together, they may be able to do more of both. It sounds like there are many details to be thought out and considered before going forward with this plan, but I do hope that two of our favorite partners will find a way to work together. They would make a powerful team that would benefit the entire community.

Marlene Cook
Prison Book Program
www.prisonbookprogram.org
Quincy, MA

126 Responses to “Better World Books”

  1. Lisa said

    Sounds like a great partnership. I would love to have my obscure books mooched, and this sounds like one more way of that happening for Moochers worldwide.

    Thanks for all that you do, and for keeping up updated.

    • desert rat said

      Work with this organization was BAD. DO NOT USE THEM!!! Turned in hundreds of books, and yes we prescreened and only sent ones in good condition. They said to send and then said they only accepted about a quarter of them….. but wouldn’t send the others back. Then they make you wait for your money…months. Right before payment they switched rep and tried to give us only half the money from the quarter of the books they accepted. Bad experience al the way around. Those who want to help others by collecting books find another group to work with. Better World Books are crooks!

  2. Zillah said

    Sounds like a great idea!

  3. Cam said

    I think this is a fantastic idea. I always check Better World first for books, and I think this is a great opportunity to support their cause!

  4. Maggie said

    Sounds very exciting…a great way for a charity to benefit as we gain more inventory 🙂

  5. David said

    Sounds great, could the books be sent to a central point in the UK ?
    I work at a secondary school and we have loads of books left over from Christmas Fairs that could go to Better World Books, then we could use the points for our school library.

    Excellent idea.

  6. Kathryn said

    Hi,
    I ran a booksale at the elementary school where I teach and (surprise surprise) had hundreds of books left over. After donating to community groups, I still have many boxes left, but cannot afford to ship them anywhere with Canada Post’s exhorbitant rates. Is there another way to donate them that doesn’t involve a cash outlay? I am storing them because it breaks my heart to recycle them, but I can’t do this much longer. Any suggestions?

    Thanks, and thank you so much for this site – it is a wonderful initiative!
    Kathryn

  7. Rachel said

    I like it. 🙂 Would A Better World accept advanced reader’s copies? I’m a bookseller, and I drown in them every quarter. I end up listing some on BookMooch, but for every one I put here, there’s another twenty in a pile either at work or at my house.

  8. Emily T. said

    Hello John,
    I was pretty unhappy to see this post.

    You might love BWB, however it is competition for the little owner/operator booksellers that you have professed to favor, John. I am doing the exact same thing you suggest, on a smaller scale. BWB is NOT a charity, although they may work with charities to collect books. They are a publicly traded company, run for profit. They omit this very important information on a number of their promotional materials. Just Google it if you don’t believe me. Adding BWB to BookMooch is going to hurt me as a bookseller using your site, and all the other single-person/single-family businesses that are already here.

    They give to charity, yes. So do I. So does Wal-Mart, and Target, and any number of big-box stores.

    I’m not saying don’t have a partnership with them, however you should also know that BWB isn’t very friendly in the neighborhood. I live – quite literally – 1 mile away from their Mishawaka warehouse, and they won’t let buyers pick up books at the door to save shipping charges. Furthermore they solicit donations of books through the company that holds the recycling contract for the city, and get free books, from that free advertising.

    I can’t compete with that. Big business, once again, wins over the little guy. Are the employees paid living wages and provided health insurance? I think there are a few questions that were conveniently glossed over here.

    Sincerely,
    Emily Thayer
    dba Thayer Books

  9. Mark Williams said

    While I would certainly like to see more charitable giving on Bookmooch, as most of us would, I believe Better World Books is not the best partner for this as they have garnered considerable criticism as they have continued to expand their enterprise and increasingly compete with non-profit charitable groups which have been conducting book drives for years.

    Better World has conducted book drives on several campuses I’ve been associated with and were roundly criticized as they essentially present themselves as a charitable organization, as seems to be the case with the current version of their website, but they are actually a for-profit (mentioned less prominently) company with $16 million in revenue last year alone and with the owners drawing six figure salaries. There is the appearance that most profits go to charitable non-profits, but they appear to only give about 10% of net profits (not gross), and also compete with many purely non-profit groups which had previously held book drives. It is laudable that they have given about $500 k a year over their five years of operation, but is is quite misleading to announce this so prominently while not also stating their total gross and net profits which appear to be in the tens of millions of dollars due to their enormous volume.

    My experience was with university book drives and the previously existing groups which lost out to this for-profit company, but there has also been criticism of the low-ball deals struck with many library book sales around the country for which they purchase mass qualities of books at very low rates.

    Better World also does not state what percentage of donated books are disposed of, but claims that they recycle rather than dispose of excess books (in the millions it appears). But this does not validate claims of massive carbon offsetting, as so many of these books would not have been taken to land fills as suggested. Most responsible libraries and university book groups recycle unwanted books.

    Books-for-Africa, on the other hand, is a well known non-profit group that has collected 15 million+ books with full public accountability and no complaints of profiting from their endeavours. As with any major charitable organization, they operate with full transparency.

    So, I think Bookmooch members would be much better served in donating books directly to these truly non-profit organizations. I think the notion of sending books in bulk to our existing Bookmooch charities is a good one, and think the prison charities, in particular, would be open to this idea. Further, I would like to see Books-for Africa and more like them join Bookmoch as charities, which I’m sure they would be glad to do. We all cull our inventories or get large groups of books which could be sent directly to a charity like them.

    I also think that if our existing charities have more assistant in tracking down books of interest on Bookmooch, that they could acquire many more books. To this end, some of us who have been around here for a while can act as surrogate moochers for a charity we are in communication with.

    So we could function much like Better World in diverting books from disposal towards charitable ends, but it seems we already have the mechanism in place to be the middle men in this process, rather than allow a for-profit company to do this for us with no public accountability.

  10. sjhenny said

    I can’t express my objections to this proposal as well as the prior posts, but still want to register my opposition to this idea. BWB makes their charity efforts highly visible but they are still a high-volume, for-profit bookseller. I view allowing them on BM about the same way I would view allowing Amazon or B&N to list here. Definitely, not a good idea.

  11. Sue Mosher said

    I like the three-part structure that you propose, John. But I have to agree with the other comments that such partnerships ought to be limited to genuine non-profits, so as to maintain the delicate balance with small for-profit booksellers.

  12. Dottie said

    I’ve long been opposed to spending my hard earned cash at the USPS so that someone else can make a buck from my book. I’ve had to “get-over-it” with small scale booksellers on BookMooch. This may be the proverbial straw for me. I’d rather just give my books to people I know & local charities.

  13. Terri said

    dottie is absolutely right.

  14. Rachel said

    So, if this went as proposed, I could send say, 10 or 20 of my not so popular books to BWB, which would cost ‘an arm and a leg’. They would get the books for free and could then make more money on them, and all I get is 1 or 2 bookmooch points because my books weren’t very popular. And I get the satisfaction of knowing my books might finally get to someone who will love them….or they might still not….since they weren’t so popular, they might still end up destroyed….recycled, of course, but BWB gets the money for the recycling, instead of me.

    I of course love the idea of expanding the BookMooch inventory so that I have more chances of getting my wishlisted books, and I can see, John, how this sounded like a great idea at first. But it looks like there are some hitches. It doesn’t sound all that fair.

  15. Rachel said

    To add to my above comment- Come to think of it, at .1 point per unpopular book, I wouldn’t get any BM points for sending them to BWB, because I’d already have lost .1 point per book for removing them from my inventory.

  16. Rachel said

    BTW, I like the new little colored quilt patterns for easily telling comments apart on this blog! Great idea. You can tell me apart from the earlier Rachel.

  17. caitlin said

    Wait, what’s the point in sending a big (heavy, expensive to send) box of books to a company to deal with them, when I only get .1 points per book? At that point it would be cheaper (and probably more environmentally friendly, considering the transport costs) to just dump them in the recycling – which it seems to me that BWB does on a regular basis. So I just shipped out books at my own expense for someone else to recycle them, while I could have held on to them for a few months and maybe got a 3-point international mooch instead of a 0.1.
    While I understand that bulk-adding would be beneficial for some people, this doesn’t seem to me to be the right way to go about it.
    And can’t we just send our books to Africa if that’s what we want to do with them? Why introduce yet another middle man? I’ve never had the negative experiences with BWB that other members have described, so I’m not against them in theory. I don’t have a problem with them per se – but you’re selling this like it would be a great deal for BookMooch members, and I’m not seeing that. I would, however, be open to more convincing.

    In a completely and utterly unrelated note: would it be possible to get province markers for Canadians, like Americans have for their states? So that my name would be Caitlin (CA: ON) like someone could be Mary (US:IL)? It’s a huge country, and domestic shipping increases by distance, while international shipping increases only by weight (unless you’re going for priority shipping). Sending a book to BC is more expensive than sending it to California, for someone who lives in the eastern provinces – I’d like to be able to see where the people I’m mooching from live, so that I could pick a book from Ontario over one from BC, if possible. Being able to do so would hopefully be able to reduce the amount of money Canadians spend to send books in Canada, and also reduce the distance those books have to travel. (I also think it would be interesting to see the distribution of BookMooch members by province!)
    I don’t mean to sidetrack the discussion here, and I’m sorry if I have, but, um, pretty please? 😛

  18. Suzi said

    I think I would be curious to see what BWB’s bottom-barrel, absolutely-can-not-sell books would be. I mean, if they want to flood us with the same mmps that we’ve got in the hundreds already, and in return get nice, saleable books, I have to admit I’m not too crazy for it. As others have said (far more eloquently) they are a company out for money, not a charity, and so I don’t think they should get any preferential treatment. I suppose if they want to join the site as a regular user, and mooch and trade with the rest of us, it’s fair game. Heck, if they can knock some books off my wishlist I’ll be happy. But as a general rule I’m not crazy about booksellers using BookMooch as their unsellable dumping ground, and I know others feel the same.

  19. Heather19 said

    I honestly don’t have much to say except to very strongly agree with Emily, Mark, Rachel, Caitlin, Suzi, and everyone else who is against this. BAD IDEA.

  20. renee said

    Please don’t just toss unpopular books in any old dumpsters; toss them in recycling paper dumpsters!

  21. I don’t think Better World Books should be given special treatment — positive or negative. I don’t like the idea of BookMooch setting up special deals with a for-profit company, but regular membership is another matter.

    BookMooch’s methods for encouraging good behavior are simple and seem to work pretty well. The feedback, mooching ratio, and abuse-reporting safeguards would keep Better World Books in line just as those safeguards keep regular members in line.

    If Better World Books can list books that people want to mooch and if they pay points for the books they mooch, then I don’t see the dynamics as being any different from any other member. If they offer books no one wants, then the books won’t get mooched and Better World Books won’t earn points. If they don’t give good service they will get negative feedback and people won’t mooch from them. They may want to mooch the best books for resale, but they would have no better chance to get those books than any other member who wants them.

    The issues related to Better World Books becoming a member are analogous to the BookSwim controversy of several months ago, and I see some of the same concerns raised now as were raised then. If a company is going to be judged more harshly than an individual then it can simply get employees to join as individuals. Is that worth trying to police? It’s impractical (and unfair) to treat a company differently than an individual. Where would the line be drawn between a bookseller that’s okay and bookseller that’s not okay?

    Did Bookswim live up to any of the fears people expressed when it became a member? Have any booksellers had a negative impact on BookMooch? I think any person or company that joins increases the number of moochable books and should be welcomed. If they become a bad citizen they should be kicked out, just like any other member.

    John, This blog post exemplifies one of the great things about BookMooch. You ask for members’ opinions about changes and weigh their responses before you act. I think that’s wonderful. Thank you.

    Jon

  22. Ashleigh said

    Although BWB has good itentions, I think that if they are to participate on Bookmooch, they should operate as either a normal trading member with inforamtion on their biography page if anyone wishes to make bulk donations.

  23. Ashleigh said

    Sorry, I hit the submit button before I was finished. If Jon wishes they could operate as a charity and then it would be up to the individual BM members to decide whether to support BWB or not.

  24. Hi all-

    Thanks for all the feedback. As John mentioned, we had a great discussion, and I’m happy to be involved. We’re definitely looking forward to getting more involved with the BookMooch community and finding ways to add value. The core of our model is creating value for all stakeholders: customers, non-profits, partners, employees and anyone else we work with. I’ll try to address as any questions raised as I can – please let me know if I missed anything. Also, I encourage people to contact me personally. There seems to be a lot of conjecture about what Better World Books is and isn’t online. I’m always happy to have a chat about the company, as I feel very strongly about the positive impact we make, and I don’t see us as any threat to small booksellers. Even if we grew by a factor of 10, we’d be a very, very small part of the book market. My email is pretty easy to guess: xavier at {company URL}

    Cam: THANK YOU! Please keep checking with us first for affordable used books – if you email me, I’ll send you the friends & family discount code. Any others reading the comments are welcome to request this as well.

    Jon & Ashleigh: Thanks for your posts – that is exactly how I think is the best way for things to work. We’ll act as a responsible member of the community, just like any other.

    Regarding shipping books to UK & Canada: This is something that we’re looking strongly at. We’re going to roll the program out first in the USA, and proceed from there. There may be ways we can cover part/all of the cost of shipping to us, but we would have to do it based on the value of the books sent. There are a great deal of books in the world that are very hard to resell and are not of much use to our literacy partners.

    Advanced Readers Copies: Those are tough for us, as the publishers really push hard on reselling them, and they are not the final versions of the books. So generally we have to politely decline those books.

    Regarding Emily Thayer’s Points: We are a for-profit social venture, and we make no bones about it. We’re very clear about this on our website. We are not a publicly traded company however – we are independent, and owned primarily by founders and employees. We pride ourselves on providing health insurance for all employees after 90 days (which is VERY expensive for a small company like ours) and paying fair wages. We also would love to work with you on a local level – we offer warehouse pickup of books on BetterWorld.com, and we’re happy to work out bulk sales discounts and other arrangements to support our local booksellers. Just follow the bulk sales link on the site. I’m sure if you stopped by and met us, you’d see that we’re nice people, and we’re certainly not a “big business” of the ilk of Wal-Mart.

    We are very proud to be part of the Mishawaka community and try to engage any way we can. We encourage our employees to volunteer, and have partnerships including with the Center for the Homeless and the Robinson Community Learning Center. We have also created over 100 jobs in the community, ranging from picking orders to writing software.

    Regarding our participation: As I mentioned before, our participation in BookMooch only makes sense to the degree that we add value to the community. If some members want books that there is not enough demand for on our sales channels, and there are other books we can receive in return that our customers do want, that seems to be a win-win to me. As the system is very cleverly designed, we’ll only be able to receive books to the extent that we provide books that members want. I’m not sure yet whether our inventory will be a good match, but I suspect that it will. Also, the program for people to send books in will not be for everyone. We’ll have to see if it is useful, and adjust it if it is not. I can’t see how people could object to it, as it is an optional program and certainly it doesn’t hurt if it exists.

    Regarding Mark William’s post: Mark, you rightly mention that Books For Africa is a top-notch publicly accountable charity. The fact that our programs are both the largest source of funding and University-level books for Books For Africa ought to tell you something. We are fully transparent with our non-profit partners, and you can feel free to independently verify this and contact them. I highly encourage anyone who wants to front the postage or lives in the Minneapolis area to donate books direct to Books For Africa. I serve on the board of the organization and it has been an exceptional privilege.

    You do have a few facts mixed up – we sell almost all of our books on consignment for non-profits and libraries, and we pay a percentage of gross, not net. The commission varies, since we cover all costs associated with the book collections. Since we are a nationwide program, there are many costs associated with book collection and inbound shipping that are always going to be higher than a local operation. The strength of our program is really the scale – most local booksellers cannot take on 20,000 books at once and sell them effectively. They would typically have to “cherry pick” the best books and recycle the rest. Because of our scale, we are able to handle these kind of volumes, and that is a reason a lot of libraries have chosen to work with us.

    Finally, I can assure you that our profits are not in the 10’s of millions. 🙂 As I’ve mentioned in a blog comment on another site (where they wanted to see the cars and houses of the founders), I rent and don’t own a car. We have relatively small margins after the amount we share with our literacy partners, and reinvest a great deal in our people, our software, and spreading the word about Better World Books.

    Sincerely,
    Xavier
    Co-Founder, Better World Books

    —————————-
    Fund literacy, care for the environment, and get a fair price on the books you want.
    BetterWorld.com (http://www.BetterWorld.com/)
    2 Million New & Used Books. Free shipping in the USA, $2.97 worldwide.
    —————————-

  25. Jeannie said

    I sometimes use BetterWorld, but I agree with Jon Maloney that they should be treated like a regular member. Otherwise, it’s completely unfair!!! I’m would not be willing to give up books for that kind of structured mooch point system. You’d be surprised what gets mooched. I’d rather wait.
    But just one more thing — BetterWorld books does not charge anything for shipping books to the US. I’m unsure what Emily above was talking about with regard to saving on costs of shipping.

  26. Emily said

    Others have said it quite well, I think, so I’ll just add my voice to the “don’t do it” side. Just let them be a regular bookmooch member, with no special treatment.

  27. Hercules40 said

    While I don’t personally have any experience with BWB, I do echo and understand the comments that others have made in response to your blog post John. And while I do not condemn, I do realize that because of their size they have the buying power to get to books (or at books) that I (and other small time book dealers — and I am only selling old textbooks anyway — would not be able to get to).

    Now, am I book dealer, and do I have a bookstore? Well, I have a few titles for sale here and there, and no, I have no physical bookstore, but in the interest of saving books, I do like picking things up OFF Freecycle, Yard Sales, Craigslist, etc. Some get sold, some go on BookMooch, etc. What BWB will try to do is NOT any different, BUT what IS different is their size, and what WILL be UNFAIR, as other small time owners of bookshops who are also book lovers have pointed out is this:

    Due to their size, they will be able to get on here and get books that nobody else wants, AND maybe even make money OFF of them.

    Throwing the books away is not the answer. BUT, giving them to BWB for their profit, doesn’t sound very appetizing.

    I have always thought, we could maybe develop a system to send books we don’t want to a charity for 1/2 a point or even a 1/4 of a point. That to me is more logical.

    Anyway, that is just my opinion. Again, I do not have a storefront per see, nor can I compete with BWB, nor am I completely against the idea, BUT… this needs to be re-looked at. Sure, they can flood BM with all the Wish Listed books every one wants, but then what???

  28. Nancy said

    I hate the idea that I might loose out on a mooch of a book I really want to keep for myself just so someone can sell it (for charity or not).

  29. Aramada said

    Jon Maloney wrote:

    “If they offer books no one wants, then the books won’t get mooched and Better World Books won’t earn points. ”

    Except that if they can list thousands and thousands of books (that they can’t sell! that they would normally just recycle!), they WILL get the .1s for that, and with John B. saying they will eventually list ONE MILLION books, that’s a lot of points. So it won’t really matter if their books get mooched, ’cause they will have plenty of points to snag “for profit” books.

    John B wrote:
    “significant percentage” “healthy percentage”

    You used those words to describe how much BWB is giving back to the charities they are getting the books from. But what does that mean, in terms of numbers? If Mark W. has it correct, they are only giving back about 10%.

    Seriously? 10%? I don’t know how 10% could be considered “significant” or “healthy.” Sounds pretty freakin’ skimpy to me, ESPECIALLY if they are picking up those books from the charities for free.

    Those charities probably could have gotten an equivelent amount if they had sold their left over books directly to a recycling company.

    John B said:
    “Better World Books would become a BookMooch member, and list books (those they cannot sell) for mooching.”

    Wait, they are going to list a million books that they can’t sell? Which means they are titles that are over glutted in the market place, which means they are probably over glutted here (Do we need another 25,000 Dan Brown copies? Probably not.), or they are in such bad shape that they can’t get people to buy them. Neither of them sound like very appealing options.

    BWB’s website works very hard to come across as a non-profit. They aren’t. That’s pretty dang deceptive of them. This just feels skeezy somehow.

    ~Aramada

  30. Mark Williams said

    I think it fair that BWB be allowed to operate an account like any other individual on Bookmooch. And that they be subject to all the same rules that each of us must follow to participate in the BM community.

    Such as the 2:1 ratio limit.

    If they list wanted books and send them then they will have plenty of points to spend as they see fit.

    But that we should ask them to kindly not make the kind of misleading claims of being primarily a charitable entity as their website does.

    Books-for-Africa, on the other hand could be welcomed as a new Bookmooch charity, and I would like to see a feature which will allow us to give boxes of books directly to them and other Bookmooch charities.

  31. T said

    For the reasons presented above, I dislike the whole idea very much. Another reason I dislike it is that is seems so wasteful of shipping ( and not good for the carbon footprint they profess to care about) to have books donated or mooched shipped to them so they list sell and reship. If bookmooch grows enough, there will be more new happy direct owners of any hard to find rare books which are not finding demand right now on bookmooch ( if that is really an issue).

    I do have another idea, a very sketchy where bookmooch users could sponsor any book selling charity, imagine person A wishlists a book which is available and relatively cheap to buy from some charity. Maybe some sort of scheme could be done where bookmoocher B could offer to buy that book and receive the mooch point from A for it, book being shipped directly to person A? Direct shipping is more ecological, the charity would make money and person B would get a BM point for a price they feel Ok paying, while person A gets a book they want. I think this would be very difficult to implement, but I am just leaving this idea in case it is interesting to somebody. Spending money shipping books to businesses which will try to resell them and reship them does not feel an efficient way of sharing books to me.

  32. Myrna said

    I agree with those who think this is not a great idea. I too have had to get over bookstore owners using Book Mooch, but at least these are small businesses. This sounds like one of those ideas that looks better than it really it. I hope you will look in to it more before committing to it.

  33. amberlianne said

    Simply put:

    DO NOT WANT.

    It’s been harder and harder the last few months to find wishlisted books as it is, and more and more members are hit-and-running, to the point where even when, amazingly, a book on my wishlist IS available AND from someone willing to send it to my country, it doesn’t matter anyways because the person never comes back and never sends the book or responds to emails and I have to cancel it a few weeks later.

    Introducing something on this scale is just going to drive away more decent Bookmoochers and attract the ones who list garbage, mooch a ton of stuff from someone who is running a 2-for-1 special, and then take off without even the courtesy of closing their account.

    Maybe I’m catastrophizing, but I’m already seeing my satisfaction with my Bookmooch transactions (not the site itself, John, you’re doing a fantastic job) going downhill… Maybe we should focus on weeding out fakers and accounts that haven’t been signed in for like a year, or stop sending wishlist emails to people who can’t actually mooch the book because the person won’t send internationally, etc. before jumping into something like this… at best it will flood the system with more crap books and make everything slow down and probably crash — at worst, well… yeah. Do not want.

  34. John Clark said

    I’m a big fan of Betterworld Books. I have sent them over 150 boxes of books in the past two years and our library has made more than $600 in return while keeping a significant # of books from being thrown away.

  35. William said

    Aha – BWB – the four-letter word in the world of books… or rather 3 letters. John, you should have followed some of the long discussions on ABE and other places about BWB and its tactics. It’s goal seems to be monopolistic to drive all small booksellers out of business. It massively lists millions of books, mostly at insanely low prices with free shipping, and has a special relationship worked out with a private shipping company, so cost of mailing is low on heavy parcels. No other individuals can compete. I’ve bought several hundred books from BWB at $1 each or thereabouts with free shipping. It was just like going to a booksale and having the books delivered to my door at $1 a book with free shipping. Insane business model. Some of the books were for my own 15,000 volume private book collection and other obscure books that were massively undervalued I bought to resell. One I bought from BWB at $1 with free shipping I resold for $50.

    Now if BWB adds lots of inventory of interest to other BookMoochers, then fine. But if they come in like a Microsoft or Google or other monopolies and want to start taking over and cherry picking the existing BookMooch inventory, that would not be good. If, as a faux charity they can get a write-off by hiring hundreds of kids at minimum wage to cherry pick BookMooch for something of value, that would hurt everybody. My advice is don’t sleep with snakes if you don’t want to get bit.

    BTW, in response to Dottie (above), we are not spending our hard-earned cash at USPS so other people can make a buck on our books… we are paying for Points at the post office so we can get the books we want ourselves in exchange for books we don’t want anymore. If I spend $2.50 to send a book to someone else who wants it and get one BM point, I’ve paid $2.50 for that point. If I choose to spend it on a book of personal interest for my own 15,000 volume library collection or for some obscure book no one else wants to mooch but I see I could sell to someone in Timbuktoo, that should be my choice, since I’ve paid for that point with hard-earned cash at the USPS. …well, I haven’t sold any books to Timbuktoo, but I did sell a book on the Congo to someone in Kinshasa, so that’s pretty close. 🙂

  36. anne said

    I’ll cancel my Bookmooch account immediately if BWB comes on board as any kind of a partner with Bookmooch.

  37. Chelsea said

    Have to agree with William on his answer to Dottie. When I send out a book, I see ir as the cost of the book I’ll be receiving with the point I just made. Which means it’s a REAL cheap way to get birthday and Christmas gifts as my entire family are readers.
    As far as BWB is concerned, no thank you. I see more negative issues that outweigh the little positive of more books for mooching.
    I also have to respond to Hercules40—Excuse me, points for giving to charity?!?! If one is truly feeling charitable…..just send them the books, being “paid” in half or quarter points should have nothing to do with it.

  38. William said

    Talk about trying to monopolize the book business! The last ten books I just looked up on ABE in the last half hour – Better World Books had the cheapest listings on 9 out of the 10, and on 2 out of those 9, BWB was offering multiple copies, including ones with free shipping.

    If they followed the same tactics on BM as they do on Amazon & ABE, then they’d probably put online at least one copy of half the books already currently on BookMooch – this would mean that they’d be accumulating points getting lots of mooches other members wouldn’t be getting and keeping BM points from being spread around. I think it would be very detrimental to the whole BookMooch community.

    It’s more beneficial to the community if lots of different people are being mooched from, so lots of people get points to mooch from others. If one monopoly gets thousands of points and then cherry picks everyone else, that is not good for the health of the BookMooch economy.

  39. R. said

    I find it very ironic that the people most opposed to this idea are precisely the ones who have been doing on BookMooch exactly what BWB is openly proposing to do: offering their old, dusty, unsaleable books and mooching better, saleable ones in exchange. I’ve not seen one of them state this up front in their profiles, though by now they must have made thousands of dollars off BookMooch. I don’t like the idea of BM becoming a book dumpster either, but between these hypocrites and BWB, I definitely go with BWB. They give a _considerable_ amount of their profits to charity, and what’s more important to me, they make their books available at affordable prices to people all around the world. Plus I don’t see them pulling any of the petty moves that these “small” booksellers have, like accepting only multiple mooches, not bothering to list condition notes, or causing inconsiderate delays. I’m sure they would treat BookMooch members just like they treat their customers, professionally and courteously. Anyway, if this is decided against, I think it’s only fair that all booksellers (big or small) that are here to make profits should be forbidden to use BookMooch, not just them.

  40. Rachel said

    So I just checked out BWB’s website. And guess what. I don’t think they are too much of a threat to hometown book sellers, at least they won’t be getting any of my business…BECAUSE all the books I just searched (my main wishlisted authors) were VERY expensive. Someone said they got books from them for $1 each??? I wasn’t seeing any of that. I have done far better purchasing from little antique stores, ebay, and small sellers on amazon.

  41. Mark Williams said

    Thank you for taking a moment to respond Mr. Helgesen, but you seem not to have addressed most key points.

    As this appears to be your first visit here, I encourage you to look around and notice the full transparency which registered Bookmooch charities operate under, and which is so sadly lacking from “Better World Books” (also known as Qumpus Incorporated.). I will respond to some of your notes in much more detail then when the points were first raised, although there are many grave concerns raised about your company by those in the Bookmooch community which mirror those previously raised by the National Assoc. of College Stores among others, and which you have not yet made a clear response to.

    Even if only 10% of your sales are donated, your company has surely helped work toward your company’s motto of ‘funding global literacy,’ but do you really think that every one of your 11 million donated books would simply have gone to a land fill as your web site suggest?

    Why so entirely overlook the charitable organizations which have been supplanted by BWB/QUMPUS’s efforts. Charitable book drives have been a mainstay in U.S. culture for many decades before your corporation began its expansion. Why ignore the fact that millions of dollars are being diverted from organizations that aim to donate something approaching 80-90% of proceeds, rather than BWB/QUMPUS’s 10% donated? And why make such sweeping claims of saving books from land fills and recycling them when the great majority of all responsible university book drives and library sales had previous recycled excess books themselves?

    Bookmooch has its own structure of charitable organization and would certainly welcome Books for Africa and each of your other partners so that books could be donated directly rather than being passed through your company en route, thus leaving only a 10% share…

    —————–
    Regarding Emily Thayer’s Points: We are a for-profit social venture, and we make no bones about it. We’re very clear about this on our website.

    ———-
    Response: While the fact that BWB/QUMPUS is a for-profit company is currently mentioned (not on the main page, nor the pages where sales are made, nor through your surrogate sellers such as Amazon and dozens of others, but the information can be found for those few which might seek it out), it is not a prominent aspect of the site. Rather, one is greeted with all encompassing claims such as “All sold to fund literacy,” and “Funds global literacy.” I would challenge you to honestly claim that any new customer to your company is initially or clearly greeted with the fact that sales are going to a for-profit company donating only 10% of the price of the books sold.

    More significantly, this information is not made clear in the promotion of the book drives you help to organize and so greatly profit from, but you are perhaps not aware of this as these drives appear to be operated by another division of your expanding company. BWB/QUMPUS clearly presents itself as being charitable in purpose, and not even in the fine print is the 90/10 division of expenses/profits to donations disclosed. You are perhaps not aware of the standards which charitable organizations are governed, but operating expenses in excess of 20-30% are considered high and anything over 50% is widely considered to be unethical, particularly if these percentages are not fully disclosed to all who donate their valued goods. I understand that youreslf and yoiur fellow founders are still (apparently) in your twenties and seem to have thus far had only brief acquaintance with genuine charity organizations. But many of us here have invested long years or even decades in charity work and do not take kindly to the emerging trend of for-profit corporations assuming the mantle of charitable entities.

    I have witnessed BWB/QUMPUS drives at three university campuses and there is every appearance that donated book are primarily going to the benefit of Books for Africa (which often dominates the poster art) and other charitable groups, not that only a small fraction of revenue generated from sales is going to these organizations. I’ve included a link below of a representative student group promotion of the book drive based on misleading literature which conflates BMB with Books for Africa.
    ———-

    I’m sure if you stopped by and met us, you’d see that we’re nice people, and we’re certainly not a “big business” of the ilk of Wal-Mart.

    ———
    Response: The point here was not that you are on the scale of Wal Mart, but that corporations of every size make charitable donations, in fact, many do so at the aprox 10% level as you appear to do without primarily representing themselves as a charitable entity. This level of charitable giving is essential to the success of many national charities and foundations, but also serves as a valued promotion tool as well as a tax asset. I applaud the embrace of the ‘triple bottom line’ which your corporation and so many others have been embracing, but this does not make such entities charitable as a primary goal as your BWB/QUMPUS promotion materials so strongly suggest.

    ———-

    We are very proud to be part of the Mishawaka community and try to engage any way we can. We encourage our employees to volunteer, and have partnerships including with the Center for the Homeless and the Robinson Community Learning Center. We have also created over 100 jobs in the community, ranging from picking orders to writing software.
    ——–

    Response: Fair compensation is one thing, executive salaries of over $100,000 are another. Such information should be part of your public presentation (and comments made here) as it so belies your projected image as a small company primarily soliciting donations for charitable purposes.
    ———-
    Regarding our participation: As I mentioned before, our participation in BookMooch only makes sense to the degree that we add value to the community. If some members want books that there is not enough demand for on our sales channels, and there are other books we can receive in return that our customers do want, that seems to be a win-win to me. As the system is very cleverly designed, we’ll only be able to receive books to the extent that we provide books that members want. I’m not sure yet whether our inventory will be a good match, but I suspect that it will. Also, the program for people to send books in will not be for everyone. We’ll have to see if it is useful, and adjust it if it is not. I can’t see how people could object to it, as it is an optional program and certainly it doesn’t hurt if it exists.

    —–
    Response: So your plan is to transfer books which are not sellable to Bookmooch. If a book is unable to find a home through your extensive sales network, it might well come to the same fate here.

    This is certainly allowed here, and there are many independent book sellers which are a part of the BM community. Some books whihc are not sellable may well find a home here, although partcipating in international trading is encouraged.

    But, okay, if you are unsure if it would be a good match why not start small with a few hundred books and see how that goes? I have seen no objections to this as long as you make no misleading claims of primarily working towards charitable ends.

    Still the larger question is: Why do you think that Bookmooch needs BWB/QUMPUS as a middle man to give books to charitable groups? Why should we not continue to act as middle men as we have been with our own charitable groups?

    It seems far more logical and direct for us to donate directly to Books for Africa and related programs rather than to a companty which absorbs 90% of the revenue from books donated….
    ——-

    Regarding Mark William’s post: Mark, you rightly mention that Books For Africa is a top-notch publicly accountable charity. The fact that our programs are both the largest source of funding and University-level books for Books For Africa ought to tell you something.
    ——
    Response: Yes, I have noticed that BWB/QUMPUS tends to conflate your company with this well known and well respected charity. In fact, some of your promotional material for university book drives appears to mainly suggest books are going directly to this particular charity, rather than just a fraction of the proceeds from sales, and books which do not sell through your web site. It appears that you have donated approximately 5-7% of the total books they have received (less than a million of their 15 million total).

    I cannot speak to your relationship with this charity (but the most recent public data suggest $67K donated, and books of undisclosed value since 2003), but are you quite sure that your company is fully transparent with the 1000+ local book drives and sales with which you have been involved? This would include a fully reckoning of the total sales you derive from the books you attain from these programs. As your publicly disclosed revenues were $16+ million for 2007 alone, these are significant figures. I have worked with university campuses where no valuation of the books which were accumulated was delivered, but rather the fractional donations made, or commisions if you would rather phrase it that way, essential your cost of goods, proudly touted as a charitable donation in your average $1 million per year charitable giving tally which is so often repeated (in the cumulative 5.6 million dollar figure five year figure), and which is completely decontextualised from the 90/10 split and yearly revenues in the many millions (again, $16+ million in 2007 alone).
    ——————-

    We are fully transparent with our non-profit partners, and you can feel free to independently verify this and contact them. I highly encourage anyone who wants to front the postage or lives in the Minneapolis area to donate books direct to Books For Africa. I serve on the board of the organization and it has been an exceptional privilege.
    You do have a few facts mixed up – we sell almost all of our books on consignment for non-profits and libraries, and we pay a percentage of gross, not net. The commission varies, since we cover all costs associated with the book collections. Since we are a nationwide program, there are many costs associated with book collection and inbound shipping that are always going to be higher than a local operation. The strength of our program is really the scale – most local booksellers cannot take on 20,000 books at once and sell them effectively. They would typically have to “cherry pick” the best books and recycle the rest. Because of our scale, we are able to handle these kind of volumes, and that is a reason a lot of libraries have chosen to work with us.

    —–

    Response: Okay, the press reports may have mistaken a very low percentage of gross sale with a very low percentage of net sales, but you are dodging the point here: exactly what is your overall rate of charitable donations? Do you dispute the 10% figure from the link below?

    To merely state that the commission varies is to say nothing at all. This BM community deserves a better response than this.

    If your revenue was $16 million+ for last year alone and you appear to have averaged aprox $1 million in donations each of the last five years, are we not in the 10% donated ball park (assuming you made quite a bit less than this in your earlier years)?

    And yes, libraries are indeed chronically short on volunteer staff and so are likely to take whatever short cuts are needed to liquidate large numbers of books in one blow, but rather than justifying the paltry 10% return on books purchased from them, it suggests the need to more fairly compensate them.

    ————–

    Finally, I can assure you that our profits are not in the 10’s of millions. As I’ve mentioned in a blog comment on another site (where they wanted to see the cars and houses of the founders), I rent and don’t own a car. We have relatively small margins after the amount we share with our literacy partners, and reinvest a great deal in our people, our software, and spreading the word about Better World Books.
    ———-

    Response: No claims were made of profits, just total revenue as you do not disclose your profits, is that not correct?

    I understand six figure salaries do not go as far as they once did, but still, don’t you think this information should be publicly disclosed?

    This statement deerves to be signled out: “We have relatively small margins after the amount we share with our literacy partners” any rational person would read this to mean you give the majority of your revenues to charitable groups and not the 10% which appears to be closer to the truth.

    Agreed, if a charitable organizations were to develop such a sales network which is so extensive and which you are rightly proud of, then this could be a great asset to libraries and university book drives. But if this were to be the case, far, far more than 10% of revenues would be returned back to the sources from which these books were donated, don’t you think? There are, in fact, much smaller truly charitable companies that aim to do just this, and with which your are directly competing with.

    And yes, companies your age would tend to heavily invest in their operations and continued growth (and ever rising corporate valuation), but as your company has not made your net profits publicly available would you care to give us an estimate? Aside from your confusion over what was initialed posted, all that I have mentioned is your gross revenue of $16 million+ as has been publicly reported (link below).

    ———

    So, in short:

    As a spokesman for BWB/QUMPUS, you seem to suggest that your company is making very little profit, yet how do you explain $16 million+ in revenue last year alone with approximately only 10% donated to charity, not the majority as your site so strongly seems to indicate? These numbers are glaring and inescapable. Rather than just vaguely stating that the ‘commsions vary’ why not give us a ball park figure if it is higher than the 10% as published? And if it is do you then dispute your own publicly listed donations and generated revenue?

    Claims are made that each of your 11 millions books is somehow being saved from a land fill, yet nearly all responsible university and library sales recycle unwanted books as you do.

    Why not disclose the percentage of the books BWB/QUMPUS gathered which are recycled? (which appears to the be the majority of your 11 million unless you are selling more than 1 million books a year, or making undisclosed donations). The fact that so many books are simply recycled ought to be clearly spelled out at the point of donation. And the statements ignoring the displacement of previously existing charities needs to be modified so that the suggestion that the books are being 100% saved from simple disposal is not being made.

    —-
    References:

    Mentions NPR report of 100,000+ saleries for executives, and some of 160+ employees

    http://blog.seattlepi.nwsource.com/bookpatrol/archives/136400.asp?from=blog_last3

    only 10% of profits donated

    http://digital-lifestyles.info/2008/04/08/eco-amazoncom-rival-betterworld-books-gets-funding/

    (at least) $16 millon in revenue last year alone

    http://venturebeat.com/2008/04/07/better-world-books-draws-up-45m-for-textbook-rescue-service/

    http://www.sbsun.com/business/ci_8860903

    National Assoc of College stores questions % of proft and misleading promotional materials.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Better_World_Books

    Student press based on misleading conflation (from BWB) with Books For Africa:

    http://media.www.redandblack.com/media/storage/paper871/news/2008/04/29/Opinions/Donate.Your.Books.Save.A.Life-3354071.shtml

    Representative frat/seroirty promotion of BWB as being charitabkle in nature:

    http://www.ptk.org/chapters/bwb/

  42. T said

    Just a new note, I saw the update presenting Helgelsen reply, and I am even more negative now about having betterworldbooks be a player in the conditions you stated.

    Part of the fun of this system is that being book to book, one point ( or 2/3) all, introducing a large, very large for-profit organization into the system, do you really think it will be good for the “economics” of bookmooch? Something I really love about bookmooch is that it´s a different system, I think with the bookmooch there is potential to have a new system of book circulation reader-to-reader which seems totally fascinating to me. Bringing large businesses ( nevermind if they give 10% of profits, gross or net) to any charities, seems very worrying to me.

  43. Mark & others — just to make sure you have not misunderstood :

    I AM NOT SUGGESTING THAT BWB BE A BOOKMOOCH REGISTERED CHARITY

    In fact, I’m not suggesting we treat BWB in any special way whatsoever.

    Xavier is suggesting that BWB join BookMooch as a regular member, giving and mooching just as anyone else, subject to all the same rules as everyone else. And, if some people want to “dump books” on BWB, they’re willing to accept them.

    Heck, I think it’d be great if lots of BookMooch members offered to “receive dozens of boxes of unwanted books, and pay you for that in BookMooch points”. BWB doesn’t have exclusivity on that, anyone is welcome to do that today.

    While BM is a free service, meaning you don’t pay me to use it, in no way am I or is BookMooch anti-commercial.

    I’ve worked at, and been on the board of a lot of charities (and still am) and so far I think that socially minded companies can do a lot of good and still make a profit, and I don’t begrudge them their profit.

    Most of the charities I’ve helped, especially the older ones, are all about themselves, and internal fighting, and wining architectural awards for their new headquarters. That’s why the BM registered charities that we work with tend to be smaller, very goal oriented, and are often not government registered.

  44. Mark Williams said

    Thanks for the clarification John, I can see how some may think that is a point of contention.

    But I don’t think most of those responding misread that they would be a Bookmooch charity, just that BWBs well established pattern of misrepresentation is quite disturbing. And the prospect of a partnership with this particular company and one million books listed is troubling.

    I don’t think many have objected to their being able to operate under the same rules which we all do here.
    And while my experiences have been quite positive with charities, I do also quite agree that honest for-profit socially orientated companies do much good work, more than charities do in some arenas, but full public disclosure is an essential aspect of this.

    Particularly when such misleading claims are being made to bring in their donations.

  45. Wanda said

    It doesn’t matter to me if they are for profit or not. We would then have more books to choose from. They would still be “free” to us as are the rest of the books on bookmooch. If people want to sell the books that they mooch from me, fine. They are books that I no longer use or have the shelf space for. This frees up shelf space for the books that I do use and I get points to order them. Either way, it keeps books available and frees up landfill space.

    As far as giving them books that I no longer have space for, if it comes to that, I would probably do it because I know for a fact that my local library throws books away.

    Recently I’ve had several new moochers mooch books that I can’t believe that anyone would want. So, you just never know. In addition, when I read books, they quote other books that are frequently out of print and I find those on bookmooch.

    Availability is the name of the game here.

  46. Wanda said

    I say, let them join like a regular member. If you don’t want to dump books on them, that is your option. If you don’t want to do business with them, fine. But some of us wouldn’t mind at all.

  47. T said

    “Heck, I think it’d be great if lots of BookMooch members offered to “receive dozens of boxes of unwanted books, and pay you for that in BookMooch points”. BWB doesn’t have exclusivity on that, anyone is welcome to do that today.”

    To be completely honest not sure I see any advantage in the scheme proposed for bookmoocher users. .1 for books which have not been mooched in the last year is precisely what one gets from just listing books in inventory. People who want books out and are willing to pay shipping costs for .1 a book can offer a deal where they return the points mooched for a certain lot of books, can already do get precisely the same points by just listing books on Bookmooch and offering the point-back deal. Maybe you can implement that in another way? Plus who knows there might be hidden treasures there other bookmoochers would love to see. I am sure that .1 BM point for each book shipped in a box, there will likely be takers willing to offer it as well. or if you got enough storage, just list them and wait a year, some might very well get mooched for enough points to make it worthwhile if it cames to sending unwanted ones to recycling at least it can be nearby recycling and will save carbon footprint from mailing big boxes to BWB.

    BWB offering 1 point for recently mooched books is good and might save money in shipping for those shipping the boxes, but BWB is counting in recouping money with those by selling those and reshipping. Again reshipping and a lot of shipping of big book boxes just does not seem carbon footprint friendly to me, but nevermind that, the problem is that is it likely we bookmoochers would much rather see that type of books listed on bookmooch for us to able to mooch.

    I don´t really see what is so special or nice about this offer, or how it might be advantageous for bookmooch and its users. You are already doing something very nice and special and helping to enable that rare books find the people that want them by offering .1 point for each book in inventory no matter what.

  48. Emily T. said

    “Heck, I think it’d be great if lots of BookMooch members offered to “receive dozens of boxes of unwanted books, and pay you for that in BookMooch points”. BWB doesn’t have exclusivity on that, anyone is welcome to do that today.”

    I think the problem with this suggestion is that it replicates existing charities that accept boxes of books without requiring that they be shipped to an intermediate location. GoodWill has thousands, possibly tens of thousands of donation-reception points in the US. The Salvation Army is another well-established charity that accepts books in every large city. In my region we even have a third charity, Saint Vincent’s, that is happy to see incoming books. If one approaches this from an environmental standpoint, it makes more sense to locally process donations of heavy things, such as boxes of books. To go one better, most of these large, existing charities will send a truck to your door and provide free pickup with just a phone call. The alternative suggested just does not make sense financially for the giver, or in terms of environmental impact.

    To reply to Xavier: you seem to have missed my points. What IS your idea of a fair wage? Minimum wage may be legal, but it is not fair, nor a living wage. Why *aren’t* you a nonprofit?

    To John Buckman: you are missing the obvious application that BWB will be scanning the BM database 24 hours a day. BWB states that they employ computer programmers. A simple scanning program will destroy your site. It is the equivalent of allowing a 300-pound goon into the cozy trading corner (which was your original vision), who scoops up all the “good” books as soon as they are dropped onto the trading table.

    BookMooch could be altered with the commonly used validation mechanism of typing in a visually distorted code, which only a human being can decipher. This would at least ensure that a real human being is mooching the books, and not an automated computer program. If that is implemented, then I’d have to agree with Jon Maloney, who pointed out that the 2:1 trading ratio ensures that people provide wanted books in exchange for whatever they take from the site.

    Thank you for everyone’s comments.
    Sincerely,
    Emily Thayer
    dba Thayer Books

  49. To John Buckman: you are missing the obvious application that BWB will be scanning the BM database 24 hours a day. BWB states that they employ computer programmers. A simple scanning program will destroy your site. It is the equivalent of allowing a 300-pound goon into the cozy trading corner (which was your original vision), who scoops up all the “good” books as soon as they are dropped onto the trading table.

    You haven’t seen the BookMooch web logs — this is *already happening* and hmmm.. nobody’s noticed. I’ve spotted at least 4 “entities” doing automated checking of books in the BookMooch system. I’ve checked their accounts, and they all have ratios around 1:1 and very positive feedback. It doesn’t take much research to find accounts that have sent and received more than 1000 books, and that’s pretty hard to explain as personal consumption. But… remind me why this is a problem? They send books out that people want, and get lots of positive feedback…

    The automated checking of the BM inventory was going to happen, no matter what.There are two ways to deal with it:

    1) fight it as “hacking” and try to block it
    2) make the rules of BM work in a way that handles this gracefully.

    I went with #2, because in my experience #1 doesn’t work.

    The biggest change I made was to lower the ratio from 5:1 to 2:1, so that accounts that list tons of books couldn’t use their points unless they also gave away lots of books. That’s worked well.

    Also, unhappy mooches (ie, not giving condition notes on damaged books) leads to complaints, which the abuse dept handles, and if you get too many of them, your account is closed, and you lose all your points, which is a *huge* motivator to play good.

    So, to recap, this two pronged approach (good rules & human oversight of complaints) seems to work well, and when/if it has problems, I’ll continue to revisit the rules and our processes.

    regarding the people who don’t like my comment:
    “Heck, I think it’d be great if lots of BookMooch members offered to “receive dozens of boxes of unwanted books, and pay you for that in BookMooch points”. BWB doesn’t have exclusivity on that, anyone is welcome to do that today.”

    I’m not sure they realized that I’ve had a least a dozen conversations with large repositories of books, who want to give bookmooch a warehouse full of books for free. However, I have no way of accepting those books at this point, but I’d like to find a way in which those books could get back into reader’s hands.

    This is not a case of “should I list the books on bookmooch myself, or send them to someone else” — no, this is a case where “I have a warehouse of books, and no money to pay people to type them all into bookmooch and postal mail them to people” — so the books languish in a farmhouse somewhere.

    -john

  50. Julie Hedlund said

    Well, I have to toss my hat in the ring with the folks opposed to this move. John, I haven’t read anything in the previous posts that suggests anyone is anti for-profit companies trying to be socially responsible. I give my business to many of them myself. I’m reading that some people are arguing that their overall contribution is not so great, and perhaps may be having the effect of reducing funds/books going to the charities they support. I’m not going to pick a side on that one, but that’s the concern. The second, more important, concern that I’m seeing is whether allowing BWB and other companies like them participate in bookmooch benefits the community or not.

    On this point, I do have an opinion. I think what makes bookmooch so great is that it is primarily individuals sharing a love of books and trading them. Sure, there may be some small companies out there reselling the books and scanning the inventory. There may be some individuals reselling on eBay. The question, though, is one of scale. It’s one thing to know that there are a few entities that are doing this and another to openly sanction it. I think once that happens, it is going to become a forum for the “big guys” to trade books, sidelining us regular individuals who are trading for fun. By “big guys,” I mean technologically saavy people or companies who may be paying people to look 24X7 for saleable books (which of course, would include all highly wishlisted books). That’s why I don’t even think they should be permitted to be a member.

    Here’s an example: I sent out a copy of Water for Elephants today. It was on 192 wishlists, and now one lucky woman in Tennessee is going to get it in a few days. I know this woman is an individual just planning to read the book (and hopefully relist it). Now she’ll take that book off her wishlist, increasing the chances for the others on the list to get it the next time. But, in a situation where you have a BWB out there, they’ll want not just one but ALL copies of Water for Elephants that come up because they know it will sell. I don’t see how that’s going to make it easier for members to get the books they want – especially the highly wishlisted ones. Since I now only mooch books that are on my wishlist, it sure doesn’t seem like a great benefit to have a company out there skimming the good stuff. I think this would be particularly devastating for international moochers, many of whom already have to take the time to find an angel in time to get a book they really want before it gets mooched by someone in country.

    Another issue: If I want to support BWB and their business model, I’ll just go and buy books from them or send books to them directly. However, I don’t want to do that through Bookmooch. If they do join, and I get mooch requests from them, I’ll reject them. Then maybe I start to build up an inordinately high number of rejects in my profile, particularly if BWB is just the beginning and other companies like them start to join.

    Ultimately, of course, it is your decision on how to proceed. You created this great and wonderful site, and I thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment. I think a lot of this discussion is a philisophical one about what bookmooch becomes in the future, and not about whether there are for-profit companies out there who do good work and good deeds – of which there are many.

    Thanks again for considering all of our opinions.

  51. As a BookMooch charity and a non-profit partner of Better World Books, the Prison Book Program has a unique perspective on this issue.

    Better World Books has been selling books we cannot use since 2004 and we have found them to be a great partner. To date they have raised over $25,000 for us which accounts for over 33% of our budget and has funded shipments to more than 8000 prisoners. We get 30% of the revenues for the books they sell on our behalf. Yes, that is relatively small, but when you consider that they pay for everything from the shipping of our books to their warehouse to the handling of the purchases, it is more than fair. We have tried selling books on our own through Amazon, through local booksellers and by running our own book sales. All proved to be far too much effort for way too little gain. BWB brings economy of scale to non-profit book selling in the same way Amazon brings it to book-selling in general. Many may not consider that a good thing, but we most certainly do.

    The person that manages our relationship with BWB works in the publishing industry. She has met the CEO and founders and visited their facility in South Bend, Indiana. She found them to be genuinely dedicated to funding literacy efforts and was quite impressed with their operation. They are also a recent recipient of Fast Company Magazine’s social entrepreneur award. I worked for a non-profit that received this award several years in a row. I can say that Fast Company does not award this honor lightly. The recipients are changing the world in powerful ways and are doing it honestly and efficiently.

    BookMooch has also been a boon to us in the ~6 months we have been an official charity. We have mooched over 350 books and nearly all of these are so in-demand that they are sent to a prisoner within a week of receiving them. Because of BookMooch we have been able to dramatically improve the quality of reading material we send out. We have mooched dictionaries (which prisoners use to teach themselves to read), almanacs, self-help and religious materials of all kinds, business books and many more. When an inmate learns to read or start a business or gets his GED or improves his mental state, he is far more likely to have a successful life on the outside – and because of legions of generous BookMoochers we are able to provide many more of these hard-to-find titles than we have in the past. Unfortunately, we (and the other prison book charities) regularly clean out BM’s inventory of these books. Having more available would be fantastic!

    BWB and BookMooch joining forces would make more of these titles available to everyone. We pre-screen the books we send to BWB to weed out the un-saleable ones – so I am very familiar with the books they deem un-saleable and could become available on BookMooch. While some are the same MMPs that likely are sitting in everyone’s inventories for months, a great number of them are non-fiction titles that would go in minutes on BookMooch.

    BWB has increased the quantity of books we send out. BookMooch has improved the quality. Working together, they may be able to do more of both. It sounds like there are many details to be thought out and considered before going forward with this plan, but I do hope that two of our favorite partners will find a way to work together. They would make a powerful team that would benefit the entire community.

    Marlene Cook
    Prison Book Program
    http://www.prisonbookprogram.org
    Quincy, MA

  52. foggylady99 said

    John, after reading all the comments about the BWB idea, I can appreciate how convoluted and time consuming a democracy in action is.
    And ain’t that wonderful…
    It’s a feeling of true community which makes Bookmooch so special.

    Count me as one of those folks who don’t want the community feeling to be adulterated by the intrusion of for-profit entities. I like knowing that I have sent a book to someone who will hopefully enjoy it as much as I did, someone who, like me, may not have a large budget for books.
    And who will probably, like me, re-list the book for others to share.
    With Bookmooch, you have created a community of like minded folks happy to share with each other, on a level playing field, ( well, for the most part anyhow).
    With respect to and for BWB, I prefer not to change the status quo of Bookmooch.

  53. Cheryl said

    Wow, this has been an interesting read. I’m not opposed to BWB being regular members…as has been stated, if corporations are banned all that will do is have companies get their employees to man ostensibly individual accounts for company benefit. Transparency for all! I am not surprised to hear the news that someone or -ones have programmed bots to scan bookmooch and/or pull wishlisted books automagically. That is inevitable, and I agree with John, not even necessarily undesirable. The trick is making sure that such auto-bots don’t side check everyone else out of the running for desirable books.

    I vastly prefer BookMooch to its competitor PBS, but their CD swap site seems to have some advantages over other CD sites…specifically in having a native bot-retriever ap for desired items based on a waiting list. It seems to me that integrating auto-mooch options and/or a reservation system is the only way to let individual moochers like me ‘compete’ with the big boys with $$ to pay programmers or even just low-wage employees to refresh the wishlist page every minute or two and scan it for newly listed books, at least in the longer run.

    I know that would entail a headache or two for John, if not several dozen. I think some kind of bot-competition, with the entries being offered as freeware or shareware (can we pay in mooch points?? ;^) to BM members might yield some interesting results as an intermediate step.

    I await any thoughts with interest.

  54. Mark Williams said

    Thank you for contributing Marlene. It is very good to hear of your positive experience, and that your group is earning three times the average 10% ‘donation’ which seems to be the overall BWB average, while not displacing existing charitable entities as they have done in other cases.

    I hope you will consider accepting box donation as well, so the BM community can more directly benefit your cause, without taking up quite so much of your limited time to seek out books. I have also proposed a ‘charity buddy system’ where you can tell a few mooching partners what kind of books you are in need of and these can then be mooched on your behalf.

    As a large company (in relative terms) the differing divisions of BWB surely function differently. My experiences over the last three years has been with the university books drives, which seem to account for the lion share of donated books as they are now being held many hundreds of times per year all across the U.S.

    And it is these book drives which are fraught with deceptive promotion, conflation of Books for Africa and BWB, and seem to have a much, lower fractional share of revenues contributed: aprox 10% of gross sales.
    ———————
    As with others, I tend to think that search bots are problematic and think that rather than trying to defeat such things individually, that if it were to become BM policy that this is not allowable, and this is communicated clearly to the four accounts John has detected and to future new accounts, then the threat of account suspension should eliminate the use of these bots in whatever manifestation that is attempted.

    We all value the level playing field and the use of any mechanised tools which are not available to all seems to very much go against this notion.

  55. ~hi all.
    a fabulous give and take.
    i do love our bookmooch community.

    regarding what john of prison book world said, that’s a fine endorsement, eh?

    i appreciate the concerns.
    but i fancy the idea the buckman’s have proposed.

    can people support a trial period of time? say a 6-month experiment with this?

    thanks for bringing this to us, jb.

    ~jg florida

  56. Dave said

    The intentions behind the proposed BM-BWB partnership may be good, but IMHO it should be buried in the the bad-ideas graveyard.

    Social entrepreneurship has its virtues, but it is not charity. Correspondingly, a socially aware for-profit company should neither represent itself as a charity — nor should it represent itself intentionally in a way that others may perceive it as a charity. In terms of this specifically proposed partnership: It just doesn’t make sense. There is no good reason given why this particular for-profit company has been singled out for its partnership with BookMooch. Or, if it is just going to have a regular account, there is similarly no reason for this large book retailer to be singled out in the blog for the community’s support.

    On the surface, both BWB and BM are for-profit enterprises that involve the exchange of books. But while BWB could certainly use BM as a source of more books to sell for profit, BM does not need BWB as a a middleman for charity. That’s because BM already has its own networks of charities. It would make more sense to focus on giving books (single books and/or en masse) to genuine charities already affiliated with BM. If you want to support, say, Prison Book Program, you can give to them directly. If BWB wants to participate, it can do so the same as any individual: Without “charity” status, without misrepresenting itself as a charitable organization, and by receiving points by sending books that other users want. But it makes no sense to support BWB in order to support the Prison Book Program or Books for Africa, when one can just support charities directly through BookMooch. And it makes no sense to advertise for BWB to accept your boxes of books in order to sell them for profit. I’m sure there are many users that are not even big multi-million-dollar companies that would take boxes of books off others’ hands to sell them to help pay their monthly bills. And I’m sure there are plenty of users who would take boxes of books and would list them on BookMooch to redistribute for free to other users.

    Going forward, I would hope that the same energy and fervor now being used to push BWB would be used to directly court Books for Africa as a BM-affiliated charity. And, of course, it would be great to see a mechanism for giving boxes of books to BM-affiliated charities. Until that mechanism is in place, though, if you have a box of books (or boxes) that you want to give away to an actual nonprofit entity, there are a plethora of them that accept books to help people all around the world. The following is a sampling:

    Books for Africa:
    “A simple name for a simple organization with a simple mission. We collect, sort, ship and distribute books to children in Africa. That’s all we do. Our goal: to end the book famine in Africa.”
    http://www.booksforafrica.org/index.html

    Darien Book Aid:
    “Darien Book Aid is a non-profit, all volunteer organization that builds a foundation of peace, understanding, and friendship by distributing free books. Book Aid sends books in response to specific requests from Peace Corps volunteers, libraries and schools all over the world.”
    http://dba.darien.org/

    Sudan-American Foundation for Education:
    “Since 1985, we have delivered over 275,000 books to 60+ Sudanese libraries, colleges, universities and nongovernmental organizations.”
    http://www.sudan-safe.org/donations.htm

    Books for Soldiers:
    “Regardless of why the military is deployed, the men and women of our armed services are there for us. They deserve our support and if we can make their deployment easier, then all the better.”
    http://www.booksforsoldiers.com/

    Bridge to Asia:
    “Bridge to Asia is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that supports the modernization of higher education in developing countries in Asia, principally China. In our main effort, we provide books, journals, monographs, databases and other educational materials that are essential for teaching and research but too costly for most schools or scholars to afford.”
    http://www.bridge.org/

    Brother’s Brother Foundation:
    “Every donation makes a difference. A pair of crutches allows a man to walk in Nicaragua while a story book reaches eager students in Ghana.”
    http://www.brothersbrother.org/bookpolicy.htm

    If you give your books to the above charities, or other charities outside of BookMooch, you won’t get points (or the fractional points per book, as proposed), but you will get a tax write-off — and the satisfaction of knowing that your donations will not be going to a for-profit company that takes its cut before passing on a small portion to charities, but rather you’ll be giving directly to the charities and people themselves that actually need the help.

  57. Rachel said

    Kudos to all for the marvelous diplomacy with which this controversial discussion is taking place.

    It is an interesting coincidence that Julie Hedlund commented on the very aspect of this topic that has been on my mind. It has been on my mind because of the very positive experience I had with the last book mooched from me- mooched by, what-do-you-know, Julie Hedlund. You see, I finished reading a book the other night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was considering keeping it, but I had noted on BookMooch that a few people had wishlisted the books in this particular series, and there had been very few of them come available. So I decided to pass it on. The next morning after I listed it, Julie had requested it. (HI JULIE!) And through our BM email correspondences, I came to find out that she was very excited to mooch the book because her daughter is the 3rd generation in her family enjoying this particular series. I was so happy to be able to send it to her, and now I can picture her reading the charming story to her daughter. It made me feel really good.

    I love the idea of BookMooch members being individuals in homes everywhere enjoying and sharing books. In the first week after joining, I told the friend that referred me to BM that one thing I loved about it was that it was built on good principles, such as unselfishness and sharing. It made me want to share and I experienced the joy of giving from my first book sent out on. (By the way, the first person who mooched from me was so sweet. With her mooch she welcomed me and told me that those on BM were pretty friendly people and she invited me to ask any questions if I needed help.) There were a couple comments above about the cost of sending books being the ‘payment’ for the book you actually want to get with the point received. And yes….that is true, it is one way of looking at it. But I don’t usually look at it that way. When I send a book out, I think of it as sending a gift. I am glad to make someone else excited to receive a book they have long wanted. In that way, BookMooch promotes the joy of giving. When I receive a book, I think of it as a free book, not one I have already payed for by sending a book in the past. And when I look at it this way it makes mooching all the better! (A free book- yay!)

    My point of all this is: If I were to send a book to BWB after they mooched it from me, am I going to be happy to send it? It will be nothing more than a business transaction. No “thanks so much for this BEAUTIFUL book!” or “Wow, I am so excited to get this!” The only reason I’ll be happy to send it is because I got a BM point out of it, and instead of being an unselfish experience it will be a selfish one.

    In my experience, exchanging books on BookMooch has the feel of a small town business. I live in a very small town, where a lot of the older people know my grandpa and great aunts and uncles. This week I walked into a local hardware store to pick up some gardening supplies. (Actually, I’ve gotten into the habit of using the convenience of bigger stores for a lot of my shopping needs, but this week I decided to support my local hardware store even if it meant spending a little more money. Why did I do this? Because comments of other bookmoochers got me thinking.) At the hardware, I was greeted by a familiar face and three different workers helped me find what I was looking for, one of whom graduated with my dad. I got free popcorn from their machine and got a free homemade cookie off the counter. (Another friendly customer had apparently brought cookies in that day.) Everyone was so friendly, just like on BookMooch. It is the individuals on BookMooch, not any larger scale booksellers, that make BM so much fun. Transactions with a larger businesses, forgeting whether the business operates for a noble cause or not, just aren’t as friendly. A BM transaction with BWB would be more like walking into WalMart, finding my gardening supplies, and walking on out without even having to say a hello. (I am not suggesting BWB is as big a business as WalMart, as that seemed to be a touchy point earlier…)

    So those are my thoughts with higher values in mind, but if I look at it from a more selfish standpoint, the proposal sounds good. There was a concern that the “leftovers” BWB doesn’t want wouldn’t be wanted here either. But I doubt that. A lot of the books I’ve sent out were ones that I was surprised someone wanted; many had not been wishlisted. And my personal tastes in literature are not what is extremely popular. Most of the books on my wishlist are wishlisted by no one else or very few other moochers. And when I scan through the Top 500 wishlisted books, I see very little I am even remotely interested in. But I know the books I want are out there, and no doubt BWB has some of them. If they posted them, would I mooch them? Probably, because I really do want them….although I am hesitant to say so and encourage them to join after what I have just written.

    What I see as an even bigger problem is: If so many are very strongly opposed to this idea, but BWB still joined, and if many close their BM accounts because of it….that would be TERRIBLE. That is a good enough reason in itself against the proposal.

    But now that BWB is interested in BM, as Cheryl just mentioned, what is to prevent them from joining as if just an individual? I hope they would be above that. Ay, ay, ay. The challenges of this discussion are getting to me….

  58. Rachel said

    Hey! I used a parenthesis for punctuation and it turned into an emoticon! I wasn’t winking at anyone.

    Sorry that last entry was sooo long, everyone…

  59. William said

    “What I see as an even bigger problem is: If so many are very strongly opposed to this idea, but BWB still joined, and if many close their BM accounts because of it….that would be TERRIBLE. That is a good enough reason in itself against the proposal.”

    Yes, well sadly I have to say that I’ll be one of the first to leave BM this week if BWB joins. I’ll pull my remaining inventory and then spend the 150 remaining points after deleting my inventory. I’ll send back my remaining BM cards and stop promoting BM. God forbid I should be a lackey pawn profiting the likes of BWB!

    It’s pretty sad how great ideas get taken over by Big Business. Rupert Murdoch got control of My Space, Yahoo got Flickr,and a bigger fish, Microsoft, almost just gobbled up Yahoo. Even LibraryThing is now owned 40% by ABE – which may or may not be a good thing. I could see BWB getting its foot in the door of BM for the purpose of getting an endless supply of cheap books through its charity scam persona, just as it has been cozying up to university libraries.

    How ironic we live now in a world full of Orwellian Doublespeak, where invaders are liberators, nuclear missiles are peacekeepers, and “better world” books.

    Anyway, I met some great people through BM in several countries and do plan to keep in touch with several of them and do personal exchanges when I find books that would interest them. And in the meanwhile, while I’m using up my final points, I’ll see what happens with BWB. If I’m wrong and it doesn’t totally change or destroy BookMooch, I may be back. I have several thousand books put aside I had intended to put on BM eventually. But I suspect I’m not wrong and the relationship with the insidious BWB will be the beginning of the end of BM as we knew it and the beginning of the new commercialized BM of the future.

    Alas, to everything there is a season… and all good things eventually come to an end.

    William

  60. William said

    Well, I presume John made up his mind long ago, so this discussion is really moot.

    So I just pulled all my inventory.

    William
    wnoack

  61. terrilee said

    If an account is using a ‘bot’, that account holder should be told to stop. If they continue, the account should be closed.

    I’m amazed that it is allowed to continue with the apparent permission of the site founder.

  62. Mary said

    I think I would throw my vote in with those who say let ’em be a regular member, however I do have a question.
    I am not bothered so much by the idea that they will receive lots of points for inventory or that they might use bots to mooch a bunch of wishlisted books, only because the 2:1 ratio would keep them in check. If they don’t list books people want and send them out, the ratio will prevent them from continuing to mooch. If they don’t give good service, their feedback will plummet, people won’t mooch from them, their ratio will go up, etc.

    However, as evidenced by comments on this blog, not everyone agrees with what this company is about. Personally, a company set up with the idea of making a profit from other people’s charitable giving makes me feel kind of icky. I get the same kind of skin-crawly feeling from Wal Mart, so I don’t shop there. This brings me to my question:
    Assuming that BWB will be identified as such, will not wanting to support this company be considered a valid reason for rejecting a mooch request from them?
    People are very clear that what a moocher does with a book after they receive it is none of your business and not a reason to reject a request. I agree with this. At the same time, I do not like the idea that I am being forced to support an organization that I do not agree with.
    Thank you John, for taking the time to listen and for having the courtesy to ask! I love Bookmooch!!!
    Mary

  63. Kathleen said

    Couple of points that stick out, in my mind. ‘Listing books nobody wants’ seems an odd complaint. Several of my treasures found are books ‘nobody else wants’, 50+ listed to choose from. I have noticed several 100+ wish list entries, some with more than 3 available copies, not mooched. I have several books listed in my inventory which appear on wish lists, still not mooched. Nothing fits everybody, everything fits someone. I do appreciate the manor wishlist sends notice in order of listing age so that first listor gets first opportunity to mooch. The changes in proceedures that have been implimented since I joined have had positive or no effect on my activities and enjoyment of this site. My point is that this is all choice. I choose what, where, when and if I list a title. I also have many other eco-friendly means of disposing of no longer wanted titles. I really enjoy receiving and sending books around the globe, gives me an opportunity/incentive to learn more about a region, state or country. I chose ‘will send to any country’ when I joined and see no reason to adjust that. Will continue my activities with bookmooch and BookCrossing because I enjoy them. Enjoy your choices. Hope everyone reading has a good today and a better tomorrow. K

  64. Kel said

    Well, I have experience with BWB, so will relate that here. I have bought from them twice. Both times, believing that they were a non – profit organization helping to fund literacy across the world and also promoting green. So, I paid a bit more than I wanted, all in a good cause. Or so I believed. My first order was ok. Decent enough books for a bit more than I wanted to pay, but hey, all for a good cause right? I tell a couple of friends about the site. They check it out and complain about the prices. I remind them to look at the USED manga that they have a large selection of, as their new book prices are just astronomical. I remind them that it’s for charity – hence the high prices. And they do have a large selection of used manga. My second order I was very unhappy with. The used manga books were in very poor condition for the price. Very poor. They offered me 20% back on the purchases I was unhappy with if I chose to keep them anyway, or a refund of my order cost if I returned the books. I wasn’t planning on doing business with them again just due to the poor quality vs price, but now that I know they’re profit based, and BIG profit at that, I won’t be helping them for sure! I’ll go back to my ‘little guy’ charity giving such as sending lots of books to our troops overseas and giving points and books to the BM charities.

    Kel

  65. Rachel said

    John, have you already made up your mind about this as William suggested? I trust that you have not and that you are wieghing every comment seriously. But you have given special treatment to the 2 biggest responses in favor so far.

    It is devastating that we’ve already lost a member over this, but I am sure he’ll come back if the proposal does not go through.

  66. Quiltmaker said

    Wow. What an emotional topic.

    So, BWB joins and increases the number/type of books available. Maybe I’ll get some of the books I’ve had wishlisted since I joined…cool. Maybe they post one of the books that I already have in my inventory, okay, someday a second person will want the same book. Maaaybe they post 30 copies of one of the books I have in my inventory…hmmm, in that case, maybe they should be limited to the number of copies they can post, John. 

    Okay, people are concerned that BWB will eat up every copy of the most wish-listed books. I don’t know that any of my wishlisted books are on that list, but I have certainly felt the pain at missing out on that one special book I’ve been wanting. Immediately off the top of my head, I can think of two options to handle that:
    1. We have a list of the most-wishlisted books – maybe they shouldn’t be allowed to mooch these? or
    2. they’re limited to mooching 1 until everyone who was wishlisted when BWB got their one copy has had their wish fulfilled. Then they’re eligible for another and are thrown in the pot with all the new wishlisters (since BWB got their first book). Once they mooch another, again, they are prevented from mooching that same book until the current wishlisters are satisfied

    But, did anyone think that maybe BWB will actually be adding multiple copies of these most desired books? Interestingly, some books I’ve posted were on wishlists but not mooched. Some books weren’t wishlisted but were mooched immediately – you just never know.

    Okay, so BWB makes money. Interesting. A business making money. Sounds like a tale of a successful business. I’m all for supporting my small local businesses – remember, one day, BWB was a small local business itself. Microsoft bought Yahoo – I bet the Yahoo people are happy – they made a fortune. I bet the Microsoft people are happy – they expanded their business – isn’t that what a business should do? As for charity percentage – I consider myself to be a charity supporter – I donate time, money, quilts, food, clothes – anything that I can afford. I’ve never put a percentage on the time/money/quilts/food/clothes that I’ve donated but does that make me less of a charity supporter?

    Anyway, I think we’re forgetting about the groups that partner with BWB. I expect these groups send books to BWB because they (like me) don’t have the time/$/people to handle and coordinate national/international sales. Yet clearly they value books as much as I do and can’t bear to throw them away. BWB obviously provides a much needed and desired service. These groups are giving these books to BWB with the hope that they can find a good home because they themselves weren’t able to do that locally. By not taking advantage of the books BWB has to offer, we’re consigning those books to a dumpster. We’re letting down the very people who want to do what we want to do – find homes for books. Bookmooch, in the size of its population, has a lot of power in preventing books from being destroyed – and the more members we have, the more selection we get, and the more books we save. SAVE THE BOOKS!

    I joined BM because I love books and reading. Since joining, I’ve given up several large, expensive books by much loved authors from my precious library so I can give someone else the joy that I had when I read them (plus, I need to make room for the books that I mooched). Keep in mind that BWB is doing the same thing you are – taking books people are WILLING to give away and giving them (ok, selling them) to people who want them. Isn’t that the whole goal? If BWB has the time/$/people to resale, more power to them. I’m a single parent who has a full time job taking up at least 55 hours a week – if I tried to market all my books myself, I’d have no time to read!

    Bookmooch is a simple concept – the business card says it all – give books away, get books you want. That’s what I want to do. Sounds like BWB will do the same. There are plenty of members who have mooched more than I have, and have a larger inventory than I have. I don’t begrudge them that because I don’t have the time or money to handle that volume. Maybe, as I mentioned, there needs to be limitations on quantity per title? These independent issues can be explored and handled, as John has capably handled other concerns. If you personally have concerns with moochers making money on your books, you could sell them for cash yourself.

    Don’t forget, you can always reject a mooch request – but for those who reject BWB on principal only, will you be able to restrain yourself by not mooching your longest wishlisted book that BWB just posted?

    And of course, I have to say a LOVE the quilt blocks! 🙂

  67. amberlianne said

    I still stand by every point against this idea I made earlier.

    However, I find “I’m cancelling my account if this proposal goes through” and ESPECIALLY “I’ve already cancelled my account; I’ll only come back if this proposal doesn’t go through” to be a childish attempt at emotional blackmail.

    Make your points for or against this idea, but if you’re going to leave over it, just do so, or at least state it in an adult manner, avoiding ultimatums and whining.

    Thanks.

  68. BookMooch user said

    The only thing I can’t tolerate is intolerance.

    I propose we ban anyone who thinks that banning people they don’t like is a good idea.

    😀

  69. Missy Horvath said

    Quiltmaker said it all for me! I won’t bore you w/ repetition. Let’s just not forget the wonderful service that John has provided for us – he is only keeping our best interest in mind & has been generous enough to inquire our opinion regarding this matter before making a final decision – how many people ask us anymore how we feel before making “corporate” decisions? Thank you John for what you do. Missy

  70. Julie Hedlund said

    Bookmooch user said “I propose we ban anyone who thinks that banning people they don’t like is a good idea.”

    Once again, I would reiterate that the discussion is not about banning “people” we don’t like, but a philosophical discussion about whether a semi-large for profit company should be permitting to join BM for the purpose of reselling books and what impact that would have on this community, regardless as to whether one supports the BWB business model or not. I think Rachel perfectly captured the concern that doing so might change the familial/community nature of what BM has been about so far – one person trading books with another.

    Most of the people on both sides of this issue have expressed themselves respectfully and have thanked John either way for his willingness to consider our views. There are obviously strong feelings about this among the membership, and John deserves to hear all of them. In the meantime, let’s keep finger-pointing out of it, shall we?

  71. William said

    I didn’t cancel my account (yet) – I only pulled my inventory and put on hold putting additional books on BM.

    I would suggest people do a little research and analyze how BWB interacts with other book sites and then think about how it would interact with BM.

    Check on 20 or 30 of your own books that you have on BM, then copy and paste the author and title into ABEbooks.com or into Amazon. I’ll bet you on average 80-90% of the time BWB will have multiple copies of each of your books over on Amazon or ABE at the lost prices flooding the market. It should only take you 20 minutes or so to check on 20-30 titles, so go ahead, do it.

    So how will this affect a BWB-BM partnership? Well, BWB will l likewise come in and flood the market. They will put on multiple copies of what everybody else has on – so they will naturally gain a big percentages of mooches and keep their ratio down even if many people don’t mooch from them. If they are limited by John to one posting per book to give everyone else a chance to have a mooch now and then, they could certainly automatically have the next copy posted.

    So they’d gain plenty of points and keep the ratio low from flooding the market with vast quantities of cheap books, all the while automatically gobbling up the highly desirable books they could sell.

    Does anyone seriously think that ANY of the most wishlisted books on BM would ever be posted by BWB? No way! Those they could sell. But they’d flood the market with cheap books just like on the other sites, gain plenty of points and good ratio, then gobble up the books most everyone else wants.

    Sure they’ll have SOME books of interest to everyone to add. I’d mooch some esoteric books from them for my library, instead of buying them at $1 with free shipping. (And they sell those $1 books via other sites, not their own web site where it is a $3.50 minimum or thereabouts) – but overall, considering their relationship with the other book sites and their probable relationship with BM, it is a bad deal for most of us.

    William

  72. anne said

    I’m out.

  73. Carrie said

    I agree with most things said about this organization on both sides –

    and my thoughts are:
    1) This organization should be allowed to join BookMooch with the same rules as everyone else and not as a charity because they are not a charity. They are a for profit company who gives away a lot of books. This would be the same as those small used book stores that are allowed to join, and there are no problems with them being on the site.

    2)This would mean that they would have the same 2:1 rule, so they can list huge amounts of books including duplicates, but they won’t be able mooch any if they go over the ratio.

    3) If they want to get large boxes of books from members, they can make deals or offers on the side- like anyone else who is trying to find rare books or get rid of books.

    4) I would be against a used book store (essentially what BWB is)joining as a charity and getting special treatment just because they give a lot of books away.

    5) if BWB books gets a huge amount of wishlisted books, then it goes against the concept of BookMooch, and BWB bookmooch practices should be looked at.

    Just my thoughts.

  74. Aliera said

    Quite frankly, I don’t like it.

    When I first read the post I was willing to give it a chance, and just think a bit about the ramifications about this company having such a large presence on BM. There are other booksellers on BM already, and they are fine upstanding members so I wasn’t bothered initially.

    But what does bother me is that they (BWB) seem excessively commerical, and huge. I am sure that Mr. Xavier is a very sincere person and you think that this would be a beneficial partnership, but I don’t see it.

    A lot of booksellers on BM are friendly small-time sellers, mooching for themselves and their customers as well as books to sell. BWB on the other hand is such a huge company, and their poor reputation only makes me think that they will be dumping thousands of old bestsellers and old unwanted books (the most common unsellable books), and mooching only the most valuable highly wishlisted books that are in high demand both on the used book marketplace and here on BM.

    Most members have a mix of popular and unpopular books to offer, and they mooch a mix of popular and unpopular and it all evens out. But offer only unwanted books (that have already been passed on in traditional sales multiple times) and take only the highly wanted ones, and it really hurts BM. Ditto with shipping books en masse directly to BWB for points, it’s much cheaper and might encourage people to not bother listing at all.

    This sort of this could really hurt the availability of highly wanted books on BM and fill it with junk almost no one wants.

    Obviously, I love BM too much to leave, and I’ll continue to support you no matter what you decide, but I *really* think you should think about how this might not turn out as well as advertised. (Best intentions and all…)

  75. Hercules40 said

    Overall, I will have to agree with Julie Hedlund’s comments earlier and with Rachel. What happens if I don’t want to deal with BWB and I reject their mooches, repeatedly? Will I be referred to “Abuse”?

    And to answer “Quiltmaker” who posed the proverbial question: “Well,” and I am paraphrasing here, “they should not be allowed to list any of the highly-wish-listed books on their wish list or ask for them until after every one else has had a chance to try to get them.”

    But that’s the POINT isn’t it? Highly wish listed books are ONLY valuable when they are new. I am having a hard time getting copies of these books to read for me and the wife RIGHT NOW. They want them, because they can make MONEY off of them. Why shouldn’t they? That’s their business model after all!!! AND, what happens when a new user comes along the day after BWB joins, and the next day, and the day after, and they put those same highly-wish-listed books on their wish lists? Do they even EVER have a chance of getting that book to read? NO! Not as long as BWB is around. In 5 to 6 years maybe when the book is not that “Hot” anymore.

    So, that’s the dilemma that’s facing us.

    As far as people leaving BM, they will leave. It is not emotional. It is not childish. How many and how quickly, no one knows. I will leave if the admins kick me out, because I promise you, I will reject every single mooching request BWB makes on my books. I want my books, when I post them to go to individuals OR to charities, or I will take them to local charities myself, or I will give them away myself (I have done both this year successfully). In the past, I have had books mooched from me, that I noticed, people turned around and gave away immediately (traded maybe?), or they were members with very high activity, but I couldn’t say for sure who they were. With BWB I would know who they are. So, if I reject enough BWB mooches (what’s the limit on rejecting mooches before they kick you off?) I won’t be on BookMooch anymore. Simple.

  76. Mark Williams said

    Putting aside the many issues with BWB, let me just take a moment to assure all of you that John is not in the habit of forcing unpopular changes upon the Bookmooch community, as a few have suggested.

    I have worked with John over the last year as a BM administrator and can guarantee he is always very careful to take our community concerns into account.

    John is always looking for ways to improve BM for the members as well as the broader publishing and book-related charity community.

    I think the proposal submitted by BWB had the surface appearance of furthering these goals, but also know that John will consider our objections very carefully before determining how to best proceed.

    So, no need to talk of canceling membership or anything like that as no lasting decisions have yet been made.

    Also, many, many folks have been e-mailing me in opposition to this proposal in regard to my capacity as an admin. Please just post any thoughts you have here on this blog thread, I assure you John will not hold it against you in the slightest.

  77. brandybrooke said

    So when will we find out? The suspense is KILLING me!

    (John, thanks for everything! I love Bookmooch! I’m sure everything will work out just fine.)

  78. People continue to not understand that you can’t mooch books unless you give books. If BWB offers books no one wants they won’t be able to mooch more than two books. They will have to give at least one book for each two books they mooch just like everyone else.

    It looks like BookMooch would benefit from a way for members to give and receive boxes of books. People who store books and don’t have the time or manpower to process them individually need a way to give their books away in lots and get points for them. Individuals, charities, or booksellers (like BWB) could mooch such lots. I’m not convinced any sort of special partnership with BWB is needed. Whatever method is devised for sending and receiving in bulk should be available to all BookMooch members, hopefully without much added complexity. I hope there are better solutions than the one suggested. Maybe there could be a way to list groups of books similar to the way Dave listed envelopes — maybe 3 pounds of books for one point, or a box of 10 paperbacks for one point, or a box of 5 hardbacks for one point. Maybe the lots could be by genre and binding type, or by author, or by decade. I haven’t given those ideas much thought. They may not work at all. Maybe throwing these ideas out will help stimulate some better ideas for handling bulk mooches, simply, within the system.

  79. Sandra said

    When I first read about this yesterday I thought ‘Wow, that would be great’. But the more answers I read, the more I am sceptical. I like BM as it is now. If BWB joins BM, I hope there will be some kind of restrictions. I don’t want to see highly wishlisted books being requested by BWB over and over again.

    Well, I’m sure John will make the right decision.

  80. Nderdog said

    I really fail to see the big problem here. If BWB joins, how is it not a win-win situation for everyone? They list more books for us to have the chance to mooch. If they were just listing garbage that no one wants as some have assumed, they won’t get any mooches, thus they won’t be able to mooch, courtesy of the 2:1 ratio rule. More books will be mooched, increasing the chances that more of your books will be requested. No problem there.

    The claims that they’re going to just snatch up all of the good books from everyone seems like pure fearmongering. Could it happen? Yeah, sure, but it could happen with anybody. Will it happen? Who knows, but assuming that it will seems like a bad idea, almost as if it were an idea foisted upon us by people with agendas to keep them out.

    The issues with a member that is for-profit? There are plenty of people already using BookMooch that fit into that category, so why start worrying now? Or do you support kicking out every member who has a bookstore that might use BookMooch to supplement their store shelves?

    I’m reminded of one of the basic rules of BookMooch. If someone has points to spend, they can spend them. We shouldn’t care what happens to those books when they’ve left our hands. We list the books that we don’t want, and we should be glad to get the points to spend on things we do want. It’s not our place to question what they plan to do with the books or what their motives are. They want to give us a point for our book, which is exactly why we listed it, right?

    As for those quitting BookMooch over this…seriously? Are we back in kindergarten again? There are always going to be people we don’t like in the world, and you can’t simply avoid them. I don’t understand how the mere presence of a certain member is going to destroy your enjoyment of a site like BookMooch. You still get to share your books and mooch. It’s a pretty big sandbox, we can all fit.

  81. Hercules40 said

    I said I was not going to post anything more, but here I am again.

    Two quick points Jon M.:
    1) Everyone knows how BookMooch works. Where do you get the idea that we don’t? This debate has nothing to do with the operation of BookMooch itself. Rather, it has to do with issues such as wish listed books (whether BWB will grab them all) and whether they will flood the BM shelfs with books everyone else has one their shelfs (and can’t get rid of) also. Are you suggesting, that BWB WILL NOT BE able to mooch their highly wish listed books which they will then turn around and sell for profit, because nobody will be mooching from them? How do you know that? Just because a small vocal minority (probably) of users responded with comments to the blog entry? I am sure, there will be other users WHO DON’T CARE who will mooch books from them, therefore, giving them enough points to mooch their wish listed books. Then they will sell those books at profit on E-Bay, Amazon, Abe, etc. Or are you not suggesting that?

    2) There are many ways to recycle old books of boxes. Most people don’t know that all libraries, all Goodwill stores, etc. will take your old boxes of books if you don’t want them. You can list them on Craigslist. There is Freecycle.org (which I prefer). Why do I bring this up? Well, I could have bought two boxes of books from someone’s basement for $10. These books sat in someone’s basement for over 20 years. I didn’t this time, because the titles didn’t appeal to me, and the price was too high, but I did point the seller towards the “friends of the library”. Maybe they could make some money for the library from these books if this person still has not sold them after a couple of weeks. On a local level then, trading in boxes of books is easy. But for the individual middle class, single income, BookMoocher? That’s asking a bit much, aren’t you? There is no way they’d be able to ship whole boxes of books ANYWHERE.

    Anyway, I am out of the debate — I think my views are clear.

    As someone else has pointed out this is not a democracy (on this site). I await a decision.

  82. Hercules40 said

    Because Nderdog:

    I want my books to go to people WHO ARE GOING to read them, fully utilizing the concept of BookMooch. A book I just boought, after I read it (and I know it’s going to be in great condition), I want it go to another reader through BookMooch.

    I don’t want my books to go to a corporation regardless of whether 10% of their profits go to charity OR not. I don’t want someone to have to pay BWB for that book. That’s why I am using BookMooch! That’s the whole POINT of BookMooch!!!

    Do you understand now?

    It is a moral issue at this point as well….

  83. Nderdog said

    Sorry, Hercules40, but you’re barking up the wrong tree, in my opinion.

    The concept of BookMooch is to exchange books you don’t want for those you do. Nothing about BWB joining changes that in the slightest. It’s been brought up time and again that what people do with your books isn’t, nor should it be, any of your concern.

    What moral issues are there? If they play by the rules, they’re allowed to stay. I find it immoral to deny them the right to participate just because a few people don’t like them.

  84. Hercules40 said

    Then you’re missing the point Nderdog. And nobody is denying them anything. I have no authority in the very least. John B. will make the final decision. As I have said millions of times on the forum. This is an at will site. If I don’t like it, and don’t like the site, I am free to go elsewhere. Which is probably what I will do, after I use up my points.

    And that’s why other people WILL be leaving BM.

    And it’s neither childish or immature to react in that fashion.

    BookMooch is a community of booklovers. At least in my eyes. As others have said in their responses, I love it when I get a response in the vain of: “I got the book, and it was greatly packaged, and I can’t wait to read it.” That’s a booklover. What others do with their books, I don’t care, you’re right — yet, every BOOK in my eyes is precious, a little treasure, not because of how much it cost, but because of what it contains, whether I liked it or not. And I am sharing that treasure with others. When I post books for other BookMoochers, I am doing it for them to have a chance to experience what I experienced, not for them to go pay BWB in order to enjoy that book. Understand? It’s that simple. If you can’t understand that simple argument, then you will never get the point.

    Anyway, sorry folks for arguing — I am out. I made my points… See ya.

  85. Andrew said

    Although it seems extraneous considering the amount of responses to this blog, I would like to add my support to the folks that have concerns with any kind of “partnership” between BWB and BM. BWB needs clearer communication of it’s for-profit status, and greater transparency of it’s charitable aspect.

    John’s original blog entry seems to pitch two proposals: (1) allowing BWB to be a BM member (not a charity), and (2) bulk receiving of books with an automated pay scale.

    I don’t oppose BWB joining as a BM member. However BWB’s size and resources needs to be recognised. Just because they would appear as a single member with the same limitations such as the 2:1 ration and requirement for good feedback, they are not “the same as everybody else”, anymore than Amazon would be if it had a BM account. I suggest that BWB be restricted to only mooching books that are not already on another member’s wishlist, and only listing books that are on a wishlist. And they should have to keep a “ship worldwide” status.

    The first restriction would prevent BWB cherry-picking highly-wishlisted books, either by bot or by employees. The second would prevent dumping of unwanted books to generate points, and would help regular member still get mooch requests. Worldwide status would ensure that BWB did not simply mooch books from overseas while restricting their sends to the USA.

    Rachel’s comments on the community aspect of BM are very true, and we need to take care not to lose that.

  86. Hercules40,

    You called me by name and took issue with my last comment, so I’ll address your criticisms.

    1. You said, “Everyone knows how BookMooch works. Where do you get the idea that we don’t?” Several people expressed their fear that BWB would list bad books and mooch good books. Terms like dumping ground, dumpster, and garbage were used. That reveals a lack of understanding of how BookMooch works. I bet hundreds (maybe thousands) of members give what they consider bad books and try to get good books. But the system works, because whether a book is worth a point is in the eyes of the moocher. If BWB doesn’t give people books they want it won’t be able to mooch. And if it gives people books they want, what’s the problem?

    Several people also expressed the fear that BWB would get all the most-wishlisted books? I have confidence that if that became a problem due to robot-mooching, John would solve the problem. One entity getting all the wishlisted books is an unfounded fear in my opinion. Plus, BWB would be limited in how many books they could mooch because of the ratio limitation.

    As I have said, I am against special treatment of BWB, but I support their regular membership.

    2. I believe most of us are familiar with many ways to get rid of boxes of books. That wasn’t the issue. John Buckman was excited that BWB agreed to accept boxes of books for BookMooch points. John stated that he has had conversations with several people who have large repositories of books they would like to give to BookMooch, but John has no way to process them. John proposed a pay-scale for bulk mooches. I tried to help with basically two comments. First, I suggested that rather than having a special deal with BWB for bulk mooches, the process should work for any member who is interested. So if a charity wants to get more books per point by mooching in bulk, it would have that option. Second, I wasn’t keen on John’s proposed pay-scale, which seemed problematic to me, so I offered some alternate ideas and tried to solicit more ideas.

    Jon

  87. Hercules40 said

    Jon,

    The wish list system on BM already doesn’t work that well. It takes forever to get a good book.

    Do you doubt that BWB will stick a bunch of young college kids or some programmers on the problem and thus get all the good books? I don’t.

    Which means, my chance of reading “Water for Elephants” this year is next to none.

    That’s the point….

  88. I say have a little faith. There’s no doubt in my mind that if one member started getting all the most-wishlisted books John would implement a way to stop it.

  89. Adam Schlachter said

    I have worked with BWB for a few years…and they are an awesome company. They really try and make sure that they are doing as much as they can with the resources they have….while working to reduce literacy. In my former job I was able to arrange several large shipments of textbooks to them (and saved them from the landfill where I was a manager!) which they in turn put to good use…either as used book for a college student (on a limited income) or through one of their partner charities. In fact, the Florida Recycling Trade association (which I’m a board member of) just received a payment for some of those books and we are able to bring 3 students to our Annual Conference. Their regional directors go out of their way to make their programs work for ALL partners involved. I hope this partnership does work out because it would be a merger of two great groups of people.

    And another thought could be that their partner charities could list books on the BWB wishlist which the bookmooch communtity could fulfill. This would bring our used books and recycle them into the hands of people who can really use them.

    NO…I don’t work for the company…just worked WITH them for almost 4 years….and it’s been super positive for the programs I’ve been involved with.

  90. Rachel said

    Here is a simple solution if you do not want a highly wishlisted book you are posting to be mooched by BWB. Simply look at who has the book wishlisted, pick one or some members, and email them. Take the first response and list it for them in an angel listing just for them.

  91. Debra said

    I think it is important that they get no special treatment and have the same rules as any other member. And that their profile is honest, and states more upfront (not like their website) that they are for-profit, and not try to make people think their books are going to a charity when they are mooched. I’m assuming they will have the same ratio as any other member? So they will only be able to mooch if they are getting mooches on their books that won’t sell elsewhere that they’d be dumping here?

    Another point is, if this for-profit is allowed to operate here, then wouldn’t it only be fair that other massive booksellers are allowed to operate here too? I’m sure (and I know some of them do) they give portions of their revenues to charities as well, even though it’s not all over their websites…

    I think it’s a can of worms I’m not sure I want to see opened…

  92. Debra said

    Also, would there be a limit on how many copies of a wishlisted book they could snatch up? For books that have other wishlisters, I don’t think it would be fair if they’re allowed to mooch the book over and over, when there are other people wanting it too.

  93. Robert said

    Grossly speaking, there seems to be two types of comments about the BWB issue: first, whether or not they would benefit or detract from the BM community; and, second, about the virtues, or lack there of, of BWB. The first type of comments is exactly what this forum was created for – a democratic space to help shape the future of BM. The number of comments about this issue testifies to the health and vitality of this community and suggests a promising future. The second type of remarks, or at least their spirit and understanding of nonprofits, for profits and social enterprises, are less encouraging. Should BWB join BM? I don’t know but let’s hash out the practical matters and implications on a broad range of members. Is BWB evil because it has found a way to partner with a large number of colleges, libraries and other groups to sell a high quantity of used books? I don’t think so. And while I doubt they are perfect, even if they only provide 10% of their gross sales to nonprofits that’s light years ahead of where Target, Walmart, Boarders and other big box stores are at (which donate fractions of 1 percent). Just imagine if Walmart donated 10% of its gross sales to charitable organizations!!! Does it make sense to throw stones at a company that, again, might not be perfect but is making an earnest effort to benefit not only its shareholders but also its nonprofit partners? And I don’t understand the $100,000 salary issue. Pick a nonprofit that employs over 160 staff and you will overwhelmingly find that their CEO makes over 6 figures. To suggest that an executive or entrepreneur that makes 100K is greedy or evil or driving a BWM isn’t fair or logical – 100M, yes, but 100K?

    In sum, whether BWB should join BM remains to be seen. And while challenging BWB to be even more transparent and generous is laudable, throwing stones at a young business that is striving to both profitable and philanthropic is not. Again, what if Walmart gave away even 2% of its gross sales?

  94. Personally, I’m okay either way this goes. I feel like John has proven in the past that we can trust him with decisions he makes about BookMooch, ESPECIALLY after having read all our opinions and revising his ideas afterwards. If John reads all our comments and seriously considers both the positive and negative ones, I’ll trust his decision. This is his site, after all, and he’s gone to a lot of work to both continuously improve it, and to get feedback on things he wants to change or improve.

    My opinion on Better World Books is a cautious one. Having never dealt with them in the past, I can’t pass judgement on them personally, and I don’t feel it really is my place to try to judge them. I definitely sympathize with and understand the concerns a lot of people have brought up, and they’re good ones — especially those who want to look upon BookMooch as a place for people to share with each other, rather than a place for people to make mutually-beneficial, possibly-selfishly-motivated transactions. I totally get that; I prefer sharing and being just a little kinder to people over being “corporate” or efficient, myself. But I also think that limiting freedoms isn’t exactly fair to anybody, either, even corporations who have a history of at least trying to be fair. In most cases, I’d rather give a person (or even a company) the benefit of the doubt instead of judging them before giving them a chance.

    Pulling an inventory or quitting over this question seems like a bit of an overreaction to me — but then, my own personal feelings on this issue aren’t passionately high. There are things I’ve done in the past that other people have seen as overreacting, but have seemed completely necessary to me to stay true to the things I believe in. So, if it’s necessary for some people to react to this news in a way that others consider “overreacting,” that is their choice, their call, period. I think it’s tragic for BookMooch to lose any good members and their inventories, of course, but it’s impossible to please everybody at once, so all John can do is try to be as fair to as many people as possible as often as possible.

    Which, of course, is what democracy is all about.

    One of the things I love about BookMooch is that John DOES discuss changes with us, DOES ask for feedback, and DOESN’T just change big things without finding out how his community feels. He’s a responsible leader, one who wants to keep our community healthy and happy and at-peace. I haven’t always agreed with every decision he’s made (for instance, the new shadows seem to have deleted a lot of cover art with obscure books that originally showed on the site, so I wish he hadn’t changed that), but I’ve never felt like he wishes to be a dictator or force the community to follow *his* vision before our own.

    I’m not ambivalent about this topic — I share many people’s concerns, and would accept the situation of Better Worlds Books joining cautiously. But I’m apt to think it probably wouldn’t be a bad thing, and if John decides to do it, then I trust his judgement. He has earned that trust from me.

  95. ramzwud said

    DO I CARE HOW I FOUND YOU?

    My book, your book — let’s have a look!
    I’ve read it, could read yours — you mine.
    Do I need to know your eyes?
    Feel your fingers on my spine?
    Only when I’m your sweetheart book:
    Till then I’ll compromise.

  96. John Williams: Regarding the box of books and “charity buddy system” ideas – count us in! Both would be an enormous help to us! Please contact me at info@prisonbookprogram.org. I have lots of ideas on these.

    Marlene Cook
    Prison Book Program
    Quincy, MA

  97. Bri said

    The issue for me (one of them anyway) is that BWB will list thousands of books. Unless condition notes are made mandatory, the chances of them making notes on each and every book are very slim. It is all very well to say that if they list crap books then no one will mooch them. Well how do we know if they are crap books (ie condition wise) if they don’t put condition notes in? Once the transaction has gone through it is too late. Sure, you can leave negative feedback but the moocher is still left with a book in crap condition and BWB is able to go and mooch a book in great condition from someone who takes the time to make condition notes. So unless condition notes become compulsory I can see BWB taking advantage.

    I also agree that any account that is seen to be using an automated ‘bot’ any of sort, should be closed by admin immediately. Why are they being allowed to continue doing this?

  98. Helen (Beachcomber) said

    I think the ideas you and Xavier came up with sound great, and it’s the perfect marriage between your two companies. We Moochers could offload books that we might be able to send out through BookMooch (including maybe textbooks, as you mentioned those are needed), and we could get books we might not otherwise be able to find on BM.

  99. Margaret said

    This is somewhat off topic, but I think its important. As a college student, I have many used textbooks that are in great condition that I cannot sell back to my bookstore for whatever reason. I would love to trade them, but I can’t afford to ship them. Does anyone know of easy (and affordable) ways to donate these?

  100. T said

    A couple issues

    1 – “I’ve spotted at least 4 “entities” doing automated checking of books in the BookMooch system.”

    When the new staggered wishlist notification by email system was introduced there were mentions that there would be rigorous checks to stop people from writing software to check automatically. What gives, you are detecting a few and let them go on? if so, the new wishlist notification system is not so fair after all, we will sit here waiting or rechecking wishlist pages when we remember while other users got an advantage if they got their checking automated.

    2 – a way of stopping hoarding of wishlisted books might be to impose that any user can only mooch one ISBN once during a calendar year – if book was marked sent and not yet lost. Or something like that. I have now mooched the same book twice ( I relisted it, but then needed to find a copy for a friend), and there are people with good reasons to mooch several copies,

    3 – IIRC BWB books would donate points for book box shipping. Donating points is one way to get an advantage of more points than ratio allows. They might still flood us with 1000 copies of the Da Vinci Code, if it gets them 100 points to donate to users to pay for books they will list to sell.

    4 – I have bought 2 or 3 books from BWB. One was as described, one I can´t remember, but the other was in inadmissible condition, a library discard which should never have been sold since it was obviously very very dirty (obvious to anybody listing) and worse had had pages cut from it so unreadable.

  101. Mark Williams said

    I had kind of thought everything had been said here, but as a couple thousand folks here have my e-mail (mainly from my admin work), I do keep receiving inquiries, but please just post here instead 🙂

    First, just to clarify, we on the admin team do not have any verification process for new members: anyone can join for whatever reason. Only charitable organizations, which operate under a different set of rules, are first verified. If a standard member were to make claims of charitable intent (as some have done in the past), then an investigation would begin to determine their veracity, with the result being either an invitation to become a BM charity, or a request that no misleading claims be made.

    So the discussion here is generally in response to the promotion of BWB as being charitable in purpose, and in having advantages other standard accounts do not have. I do not believe John was given a fair and accurate presentation of the way in this this company operates, and so posted here to better inform him as well as the broader community.

    The consensus seems clear to me, it is particularly strong among those I recognize as long term contributors to BM:

    However many BWB employees wish to operate account(s) is okay, as long as they follow the same rules as the rest of us.

    The community was not aware that 4 previous accounts had an advantage over all others, and would like the see this stop and not be allowed for future accounts. Rather than a technological block, all that is needed is a statement that this practice is against BM policy, and offending accounts can be suspended after a warning to desist, as with other policy violations.

    Of course the name “Better World Books,” and any duplication of their promotional claims or links to their website would identify them as being primarily charitable to many in the BM community, and may well divert donations to our established charities, so the use of their corporate name: QUMPUS INC. seems to be more in keeping with a non-charity account.

    —————–

    Marlene: I’m glad to hear that you welcome the mooch-partner and box o’ books suggestions, the admin team will be in contact in regard to this. I’m quite sure other registered BM charities will have a similar response, and I continue not to see why BWB is needed to act as a middle man in any capacity. I think BM members would like to be able to help charities even more than we have been and you will soon find yourself within even more books sent your way 🙂

    Robert: I do understand how some comments, mine included, seem to be anti-corporate or dismissive of high-salaries and the like. This was not my intent, at least (I cannot speak for all on this). I have often worked with for-profit companies and would consider them vital partners in many sectors of the environmental movement, where my experience lies. There are arenas such as alternative energy and transit where they do far more effective work than charities are able to do. Our critique lies in the dishonesty with which BWB gathers books and then re-sells them: which in many cases falls under the shroud of an organization that is primarily (or seemly entirely) charitable in nature, but with no transparency in regard to an overall 90/10 donation rate, or public accountability in general.

    There is another company that is in direct competition with BWB/QUMPUS : Books Across America:

    http://www.booksacrossamerica.com

    Take a look at their web site in comparison with BWB. You will find much more transparency and honesty in their approach to book drives made with charitable partners. While they are not perfect and do also make use of the ‘land fill’ myth (the great majority of books drives and library sales were previously recycling), they openly state the percentage of donations from gross revenue, and this number is 2-3 times that of BWB (so is aprox 30%). This is impressive for a much younger, smaller company. There have also not been reports that this company is misleading in their solicitataion of books, but please do correct me if anyone knows this to be otherwise.

    Despite the claims of our BWB spokesman, that they have just a little ol’ small company, they do, in fact, seem to be among the very largest used-book retailers in the U.S. or beyond. These is quite amazing considering how long such major companies As Powells in the West and The Strand in NYC have been around. I would like to see the comparison, but with 160+ employees, multiple business centers and sales of many 100,000s of books, all in just over five years, they should certainly be given credit as having come up with a business model much more effective than any others have in this business.

    —————
    Some further brief research into BWB/QUMPUS reveals that these concerns have been voiced quite a few times in the past among other groups they have solicited as partners, or through their business practices on the venues they have sold books through. I recognize the same vague generalisms by the very same main spokesperson as we have seen here, and also the occasional endorsement of the company as ‘awseome’ and the like by business associates who appear to come from outside the community (I don’t know if this is the case here or not with the above comment).

    One common defense of their practices is for BWB to tout smaller contracts they have formed which offer several times their standard 10% distribution. This is misleading as it is put forth as a representative contract, where it appears not to be. The vast majority of books appear to come from outright purchase (‘bids’) or contracts in the 5-15% arena for library sales and student groups (over 1500 of them as their web site claims).

    I’ve also asked for more details from the students who first alerted my of their concerns over BWB/QUMPUS three years ago.

    As my doctoral research involved a study of environmental charities, and as I had once helped student book drives while I was an undergrad myself, some of my students approached me and ask for my assistance in learning about the true nature of the ‘Books for Africa’ drive then occurring on campus.

    It appears that BWB reps, apparently working on commission in addition to salary (I would like to verify this, but again, BWB does not seem to answer such specific questions), approached student groups quite aggressively with an offer to either buy-up books already gathered, or to use their volunteers in new, much more widely promoted “Books for Africa” book drives.

    These groups had previously raised funds to benefit community homelessness among other local causes. So, while some groups went along with BWB, those that did not where largely sidetracked as the larger “Books for Africa” drives were undertaken.

    The terms of the contracts were never made public on campus, and were only known to a few student leaders, who seem to have been asked not to discuss these terms. The posters and other promotions did not make it at all clear that donated books become BWB property, and that only aprox 10% of proceeds would then be donated in commission or directly buy-out of books. There were e-mail campaigns to target faculty, staff and students alike, all with a lack of transparency as to the aprox 90/10 distribution of revenues from donated books.

    After this initial experience, I became more attuned to book drives, and saw a similar pattern develop on two other campuses with which I was less familiar with, but which in every way seemed to mirror what I had witnessed.
    ———

    This is far from an evil company, and is clearly better than many, with the undeniable benefits which have resulted from their contributions to global charities. But I really do not know how far the surface misrepresentations extend, and for me at least, this is very troubling. As I have found they have so often been challenged for their business practices, I imagine they have discussed altering them, and perhaps we can have some very small influence upon them in this regard as well. It seems that if their book acquisition and re-selling were only done with full honesty and transparency, then they would be universally admired for their work, and while perhaps having fewer contributions and sales, would still be among the very largest companies in this business.

  102. William said

    John, any way to automatically prevent any one person from mooching more than, let’s say, 5 copies of a book? If such could be put into effect, then BookMooch could at least be saved, even if BWB partners.

    Take for example a popular wishlisted book, The God Delusion – there are 14 editions posted on BookMooch. If “Better World” Books were limited automatically from mooching any more than 5 of each of those editions, then they’d only be able to snatch up the first 70 copies of that book, after which the rest of the membership would have a chance to mooch such a popular book.

    So, if there’s a way to limit the quantity of any one title mooched, then BWB could join and not hog every currently popular book so they could immediately resell it.

    (Of course we could all wait a year or two, then BWB will be flooding Amazon with tons of that book at a penny each! Or posting them here enmasse to get points to mooch the future popular books.)

    And yes, I agree, anyone using automatic bots to snatch up books should be banned right away.

    BWB nevertheless DOES have an unfair advantage because their cost per BM Point will be less than the rest of us, because of their special low-cost shipping arrangement.

    As for the idea that if we put on currently wishlisted books, we could avoid letting BWB have them by picking someone on the wishlist to give them to – yes that would work for long-standing members. But newly joining members wouldn’t be that sophisticated. They’d put on their initial books, BWB would within seconds mooch a great number of them, and the rest of the BookMooch community wouldn’t get a chance.

    As for the comment that BWB wouldn’t get points if they flooded BM with cheap books, so wouldn’t be able to mooch because of the ration… not true, as I said earlier. If they flood the market here as they do elsewhere with cheap books, they’d get plenty of points – a certain percentage would be mooched. I’ve mooched cheap books, I’ve had cheap books mooched from me. If they doubled or tripled the BookMooch inventory by posting alongside every book you have on your inventory one of two of their own copies of the same book, by the law of averages they’ll get half the mooches of those books. So they’ll have plenty of points with which to have their bots immediately mooch the currently Wishlisted, salable, fashionable books.

    So no one took me up on my dare – take a certain number of books in your inventory (20 or so) and see what percentage BWB is currently selling on ABE at $1. It is easy to see, since they flood the low end of the market, so it will be at the top of the list of books for sale when you look it up. The odds are 16-18 out of those 20 you have on you inventory at BM. Those will be the books competing with you here – the ones BWB will inundate BM with. So in the future, half the people wanting that book you have in your BM inventory will be potentially mooching it from BWB… your odds of having your book mooched go way down, you get less BM points, so you can mooch fewer books. Bad deal all around. Hopefully I’ve made it clearer this time. So BM will transform into an adjunct of BWB, a method for it to trade cheap books for expensive books to sell – on a massive, massive scale. It’s amazing to see how they, along with a couple of other dealers, have totally overwhelmed ABE and Amazon, flooding the market. Like that Nigerian spam, they just persist and persist. Like trying to find one article of clothing NOT made in China in any American store. BWB will be the elephant in the living room of BM.

    William

  103. Mark Williams said

    I had kind of thought everything had been said here, but as a couple thousand folks here have my e-mail (mainly from my admin work), I do keep receiving inquiries, but please just post here instead 🙂

    First, just to clarify, we on the admin team do not have any verification process for new members: anyone can join for whatever reason. Only charitable organizations, which operate under a different set of rules, are first verified. If a standard member were to make claims of charitable intent (as some have done in the past), then an investigation would begin to determine their veracity, with the result being either an invitation to become a BM charity, or a request that no misleading claims be made.

    So the discussion here is generally in response to the promotion of BWB as being charitable in purpose, and in having advantages other standard accounts do not have. I do not believe John was given a fair and accurate presentation of the way in this this company operates, and so posted here to better inform him as well as the broader community.

    The consensus seems clear to me, and it is particularly strong among those I recognize as long term contributors to BM:

    However many BWB employees wish to operate account(s) is okay, as long as they follow the same rules as the rest of us.

    The community was not aware that 4 previous accounts had an advantage over all others, and would like the see this stop and not be allowed for future accounts. Rather than a technological block, all that is needed is a statement that this practice is against BM policy, and offending accounts can be suspended after a warning to desist, as with other policy violations.

    Of course the name “Better World Books,” and any duplication of their promotional claims or links to their website would identify them as being primarily charitable to many in the BM community, and may well divert donations to our established charities, so the use of their corporate name: QUMPUS INC. seems to be more in keeping with a non-charity account.

    —————–

    Marlene: I’m glad to hear that you welcome the mooch-partner and box o’ books suggestions, the admin team will be in contact in regard to this. I’m quite sure other registered BM charities will have a similar response, and I continue not to see why BWB is needed to act as a middle man in any capacity. I think BM members would like to be able to help charities even more than we have been and you will soon find yourself within even more books sent your way

    Robert: I do understand how some comments, mine included, seem to be anti-corporate or dismissive of high-salaries and the like. This was not my intent, at least (I cannot speak for all on this). I have often worked with for-profit companies and would consider them vital partners in many sectors of the environmental movement, where my experience lies. There are arenas such as alternative energy and transit where they do far more effective work than charities are able to do. Our critique lies in the dishonesty with which BWB gathers books and then re-sells them: which in many cases falls under the shroud of an organization that is primarily (or seemingly entirely) charitable in nature, but with no transparency in regard to an overall 90/10 donation rate, or public accountability in general.

    There is another company that is in direct competition with BWB/QUMPUS : Books Across America (Google the name).

    Take a look at their web site in comparison with BWB. You will find much more transparency and honesty in their approach to book drives made with charitable partners. While they are not perfect and do also make use of the ‘land fill’ myth (the great majority of books drives and library sales were previously recycling), they openly state the percentage of donations from gross revenue, and this number is 2-3 times that of BWB (so is aprox 30%). This is impressive for a much younger, smaller company. There have also not been reports that this company is misleading in their solicitataion of books, but please do correct me if anyone knows this to be otherwise.

    Despite the claims of our BWB spokesman, that they have just a little ol’ small company, they do, in fact, seem to be among the very largest used-book retailers in the U.S. or beyond. These is quite amazing considering how long such major companies As Powells in the West and The Strand in NYC have been around. I would like to see the comparison, but with 160+ employees, multiple business centers and sales of many 100,000s of books, all in just over five years, they should certainly be given credit as having come up with a business model much more effective than any others have in this business.

    —————
    Some further brief research into BWB/QUMPUS reveals that these concerns have been voiced quite a few times in the past among other groups they have solicited as partners, or through their business practices on the venues they have sold books through. I recognize the same vague generalisms by the very same main spokesperson as we have seen here, and also the occasional endorsement of the company as ‘awseome’ and the like by business associates who appear to come from outside the community (I don’t know if this is the case here or not with the above comment).

    One common defense of their practices is for BWB to tout smaller contracts they have formed which offer several times their standard 10% distribution. This is misleading as it is put forth as a representative contract, where it appears not to be. The vast majority of books appear to come from outright purchase (’bids’ or contracts in the 5-15% arena for library sales and student groups (over 1500 of them as their web site claims).

    I’ve also asked for more details from the students who first alerted me of their concerns over BWB/QUMPUS three years ago.

    As my doctoral research involved a study of environmental charities, and as I had once helped student book drives while I was an undergrad myself, some of my students approached me and ask for my assistance in learning about the true nature of the ‘Books for Africa’ drive then occurring on campus.

    It appears that BWB reps, apparently working on commission in addition to salary (I would like to verify this, but again, BWB does not seem to answer such specific questions), approached student groups quite aggressively with an offer to either buy-up books already gathered, or to use their volunteers in new, much more widely promoted “Books for Africa” book drives.

    These groups had previously raised funds to benefit community homelessness among other local causes. So, while some groups went along with BWB, those that did not where largely sidetracked as the larger “Books for Africa” drives were undertaken.

    The terms of the contracts were never made public on campus, and were only known to a few student leaders, who seem to have been asked not to discuss these terms. The posters and other promotions did not make it at all clear that donated books become BWB property, and that only aprox 10% of proceeds would then be donated in commission or directly buy-out of books. There were e-mail campaigns to target faculty, staff and students alike, all with a lack of transparency as to the aprox 90/10 distribution of revenues from donated books.

    After this initial experience, I became more attuned to book drives, and saw a similar pattern develop on two other campuses with which I was less familiar with, but which in every way seemed to mirror what I had witnessed.
    ———

    This is far from an evil company, and is clearly better than many, with the undeniable benefits which have resulted from their contributions to global charities. But I really do not know how far the surface misrepresentations extend, and for me at least, this is very troubling. As I have found they have so often been challenged for their business practices, I imagine they have discussed altering them, and perhaps we can have some very small influence upon them in this regard as well. It seems that if their book acquisition and re-selling were only done with full honesty and transparency, then they would be universally admired for their work, and while perhaps having fewer contributions and sales, would still be among the very largest companies in this business.

  104. Eylon said

    my 2c – Let BWB add only up to 500/1,000/2,500 books each month, until the end of the year, and see how it goes. The numbers can then be increased over time, but only if the effect on the BM economy is not as dire as some people here predict.

    It would also be nice if BWB customers get to hear about BM, and not just the other way around.

  105. Joanna Collie said

    Interesting discussion. Xavier, I would be interested to hear what (if anything) you think BWB could do to allay the fears of the members who have posted so far?

    John, are there safeguards you could put in place here? I think you have to accept that BWB are not, and will not be perceived as “ordinary members” by large numbers of the BookMooch community. Some extra checks and balances might help.

    Some suggestions for possible solutions:

    * In the case of large companies like BWB, require either a minimum condition/quality for every book they list OR mandatory condition notes for every book they list (to deal with the “listing large numbers of damaged books” issue).

    * A ceiling on the number of points accumulated by large organisations just for listing the books (one million books listed equals 100,000 points. Yikes!)

    * The right for individual moochers to refuse mooch requests from such companies – yes, I know you believe that “what happens to the book after you list it is not your concern”, but I think you can see that, for a number of BM members it really *is* a concern. And the right to make such personal moral choices without being penalised by the system would help those who feel strongly about such things to take their stand without dividing the community. (And is it so vastly different from allowing us to choose to not send to other countries?)

    Just some thoughts.

  106. William said

    Since nobody else seems willing to do the work, let me illustrate my point on how BWB will affect an average BookMooch member.

    Let’s say you were a member named John Buckman (USA: CA) and had 47 books on BM, hoping to have some of them mooched from you so you’d have the points to be able to mooch from other people.

    Along comes BWB, joins, posts massive numbers of books on BM. Including 72% of the books already posted by John Buckman (USA:CA). Yes, I looked them up – all 47 of them. Better World Books has one or more copies online dirt cheap with free shipping of 34 out of the 47 books John Buckman (USA:CA) has posted.

    The only books BWB is not flooding the market with which John Buckman (USA:CA) has on BM are: Flapping, Connaissance de Base, Mes recettes italiennes, Annotated C++, Discovering the Pyrenees, Writing Solid Code, Keynote for Mac, Apple Pro Training Logic, Le Capital de Marx, Wastingtoon, More Washingtoons, The Garden of the Villa Mollini, 117 Practical Ic Projects.

    So, with BWB flooding the market with at least one and probably several copies of 72% of the books we have already on BM, the odds are much lower of us having our OWN books mooched. And the odds are greater that BWB will certainly get a good chunk of mooches from them, thus gathering plenty of points to cherry pick Wishlisted books when new members come onboard.

    “It would also be nice if BWB customers get to hear about BM, and not just the other way around.” Ha! That’s going to happen only if they think they can get people to post expensive books on BM which they could snag. Normally you’d think they’d want customers to buy from them – not get books from trading and circumventing them.

    Whatever happened to John’s original concept “Never buy another book!” which slogan he quickly changed so as to not offend Amazon. Now with a potential partnership with BWB, BM seems headed in the direct opposite direction!

  107. Elizabeth ("fullmoonblue") said

    “Xavier, I would be interested to hear what (if anything) you think BWB could do to allay the fears of the members who have posted so far?”

    Ditto this comment by Joanna.

    Elizabeth (“fullmoonblue”)

  108. Julie said

    I love Better World and many of the books I order from them are probably ones they didn’t expect to be able to sell. But there are many gems to be found among these “penny books” and I look forward to being able to get them through BookMooch as well!

  109. Cheryl said

    I want to say that I totally disagree with the idea of putting a limit on the number of copies of a given book or ISBN a particular account can mooch. There are reasons to mooch multiple copies (book club coordinator mooching for a club read or a teacher mooching for her/his students), and such a limit would deny that activity.

    Also, I think members already have the right to have whatever policies they want about who they mooch from, and who they send to. Just explain in your rejection that you prefer not to give books to a for-profit company, or this particular company, or whatever. Those who agree with your stance will be more likely to mooch from you as someone whom they agree with. The control is in the book owner’s hands as it is.

    Likewise I think that if BWB or any BM user ‘dumps’ books in poor condition without condition notes, we will know very shortly as users give feedback. Moochers would rather play with users whom they feel are respecting each other and the system. BWB will have incentives to play well with others by listing condition, or not listing books in truly poor condition. The system works as it is, people!

    Maybe what we really need is a wall of shame: a list or two of low-feedback-ratio members. Perhaps a public list of members with negative feedback ratings, and a list of those with the smallest feedback to books sent ratio. They we can really see who are the worts players in the community and decide for ourselves.

  110. Michelle said

    I have not read all the responses as there are just too many, but I have read enough. I am totally oppposed to BWB joining BM for all the reasons people have stated. I also read Xavier’s comments in response to those reasons and I don’t think he really addressed anything directly but instead talked around them.

    I am opposed to any HUGE big box type company or organization on BM whether it be “for profit” or “not-for-profit”. I think of BM as a place for the little guy, the everyday joe schmo or joe schmo charity. I was against Book Swim when that was proposed and this one is no different.

  111. wisewoman said

    I don’t like the idea of BWB joining BM. I don’t think it’s going to benefit anyone here for a for-profit company to come in and snag all the highly wishlisted books so it can sell them. That defeats the whole purpose of BM. Just think, there could be a book listed that you really want, and BWB gets to it first. You then have the option to buy it from them… when you could have mooched it. And this isn’t for charity; it’s benefitting a for-profit company.

    I do not think BWB will align with BM’s philosophy or bring anything beneficial to the community here. I love BM the way it is, and I think having BWB here will have a huge impact on how things are run.

    Please John, if we have any voice in the matter, please don’t allow this.

  112. Carly said

    I agree with previous commenters’ posts that BWB should be, at a minimum, treated just like any other member and not given special perks. But, I also think that BWB should be treated just like any other large COMMERCIAL entity that wants to join.

    BWB is not the only used book seller that donates to charity. Half-Price Books, for example, frequently runs book donation drives for children’s literacy groups and also donates to environmental funds when you refuse a plastic shopping bag. I love their stores, but I wouldn’t want to see them as a BookMooch member for the same reasons others have given against BWB.

    If BWB is let in, why not any large used bookseller that gives some to charity? And if you let in all those companies, BookMooch is no longer a site for individuals who want to swap books, but a commercial site. Are these stores going to communicate with moochers and moochees the way people on this site prefer, or will we get boilerplate responses from a customer service representative?

    I don’t mind small, independent booksellers on the site because that does increase the books available; because you can usually still communicate with the individual owner or responsible person; and because they are not large enough for any one of them to have a strong impact on the economics of the site. Large booksellers, however noble their goals, are a different matter.

  113. Ellee said

    Just wanted to add a thought – for those who object to BWB for their low prices. I am a public librarian and the low rates BMB charges are similar to (and in some cases *exceed*) what our Friends of the Library group charges for books. Our FOL group does not partner with BWB, but if we could get 10-30% of the value on books that we can’t sell (after months and months, and paying for storage, etc… plus library staff time, FOL volunteer time, etc…) that would be great. Otherwise they get thrown away (literally) or recycled. Especially terrific if they come pick up the stuff you don’t want!

    Also, remember (for those who are upset about “big business” making money on recycling, that most of the small non-profits, like library FOL groups, the local Goodwill, etc… don’t have the quantities of books necessary to make any money from recycling – especially when all those books are so heavy and gas is so expensive. The only way it’s *possible* to make any money recycling books is through very large quantities.

    Anyway, I don’t have any objection to them joining. Would I give points to them like I do to regular charities? No. But since they’re getting books to people who want them, the same as I am, what difference does it make? I still support my local bookstores by going to them and purchasing things – and usually if I purchase online, prefer to purchase from a person rather than a big group. I suspect that we are also critiquing our own online purchase habits when we criticize booksellers like BMB. Okay.. starting to get ranty and preachy. better go. 😉

  114. William said

    Cheryl said: “There are reasons to mooch multiple copies (book club coordinator mooching for a club read or a teacher mooching for her/his students), and such a limit would deny that activity.”

    If that’s the case, put a TIME LIMIT on the mooches. You need to mooch them all at once or within a week or two if you will need them for a class or reading club. But asking for no limit plays into the BWB’s hands – they would automatically mooch EVERY copy of a popular book they could sell at 5 or 10 times their mooch point cost. Nobody else on BookMooch would ever have a chance of getting any Wishlisted book. You’d need to mooch them all at once for a reading club or class anyway – so no limit seems more like an excuse for BWB to pilfer all popular books they could resell right away at a profit.

    Yes, part of me would like to see the BWB inventory online here too, since I’ve bought a few hundred books from them myself, so I’d mooch from them. But for BM itself I think it would be very harmful and would result in all of us getting much fewer mooches, thus less Points, BWB getting a good percentage of the Points exchanged, and with, perhaps, half the Points awarded for mooches six months from now??? they’d be in a position to pilfer EVERY good book.

    In some ways I think BWB and the like are very harmful to the book community in general. Our local university used to have a booksale every quarter. It was nice – each time the music professor and his students would rush over to the music section to see what treasures they could find, members of the outside community would show up – collectors, booksellers, students – all on a level playing field – all able to equally compete and find treasures of interest to them. No level playing field anymore. No booksales anymore! Pretty sad. I also miss the interaction between book people – the fun of standing in line talking to people of similar interest, or meeting new people perusing various sections of the booksales. BWB comes along and damages the community – all because they came up with a profitable business plan. What’s next, a plan to make tons of money off of cookies and end all Girls Scout cookie drives nationwide?

    No, BWB won’t be dumping books with no condition notes. They usually note ex-library condition notes on their books, so I imagine they’d just electronically transfer the books with current condition notes (like the 72% of John Buckman’s BookMooch books) over to BM with current condition notes. They also stick a label on the spine or back of every book with their BWB inventory number so the book can be found in their book factory farm.

    As for feedback, I’m sure their feedback will be high because of the quantity involved. A couple of the other big dealers online, like quality7, never bother to put ANY condition notes, and don’t even own most of the books they have listed – they list about a million books on Amazon which are cheaper elsewhere online, then when they get orders they buy the books at a fraction of what they were paid and have the books drop-shipped directly, never even handling or posting the books! And with no condition notes at all, they STILL receive only about 8% negative feedback per 100,000 sales. So the sheer quantity of feedback overwhelms the numbers. So BWB would not be on a list of negative feedbacks if such a list existed.

    William

  115. Cheryl said

    William: You are entitled to your opinions of course, as am I. I agree that the drop-shipping scenario you cite is pretty egregious. However, almost any advice you can find about buying online recommends not buying from sellers who have feedback % lower than 99%. Caveat Emptor reigns on the internet too. Protecting people from inadequate research is a losing proposition. Only they can protect themselves.

    Here on BookMooch the raw feedback score isn’t what I look at; it’s the feedback relative to the number of books given. Anything less than 100% causes me to take a look at the actual feedback responses. I wouldn’t mooch from someone with such a low percentage if they were getting comments that their books were in worse condition than reported, or reports that they were otherwise significantly not a good player. Well, maybe I would try if the book in question was hard to find or I needed it soon, but I would understand the risk involved in making that decision. I have mooched from people who only have a few negatives because they didn’t understand they should have communicated better, or they didn’t understand how to pack books to avoid damage, but then improved their behavior. This is why I had mentioned a list of low feedback ratio members as well as negative feedback; such a list is a flag to LOOK CLOSER.

    I think markets (and BM *IS* a market) work best when there is transparency, and when people can make their own decisions on what works for them. Just because you or others think members will be upset or poorly used by BWB, well, that is kind of patronizing and paternal, isn’t it? By insisting that BWB or other large seller members be turned away, you’re saving moochers from problems that they might or might not agree are problems at all.

    I’m not saying BWB is the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’ve never done business with them, so I have no personal opinion. I’m saying that we as a community can decide whether to do business with them or not on an individual basis, just like we do anyway with other members. And that BM’s market model gives them incentives to be a good partner. Which is good enough for me to think they can have a go.

  116. Erin Rebekah said

    Dear “cool kids”,
    Please don’t throw rotten fruit at me for saying this, but…

    I think Better World Books has every right to become a member of the Bookmooch Community. Furthermore, I would adamantly oppose the idea that users could (in the future) have the right to reject mooches from BWB because they don’t like/trust/agree with their business/politics.

    Bookmooch has always operated on the principle that any adult may have a bookmooch account, including those who wish to use their account to further their bookstores, libraries, etc. As one of the volunteer administrators at Bookmooch, I have spent a significant number of hours over the past two years explaining to users that yes, it is perectly acceptable for bookstore owners to have a bookmooch account.

    I have also written hundreds of emails to users explaining that on Bookmooch, users must send their books to anyone who mooches the book from them through the system (barring prohibitive international postage costs). I have had to explain this to users who had attempted to reject mooches because they “didn’t like” something about the person mooching from them.

    To better exemplify the situation, here are some of the reasons people have used in the past to try to justify why they wish to refuse to send to another user:

    -believed the other person was a bookseller

    -thought the other user had too many books already

    -felt that since the other user had wishlisted romance books, that they were not smart enough to read a classic novel

    -did not want to send to anyone in Switzerland, because Switzerland remained neutral during WWII

    -didn’t like the other user’s profile picture

    -refused to ship to librarians, because the person felt they were ” greedy book hoarders”

    The list goes on…

    In reality, the current system on Bookmooch is that it doesn’t matter whether you like the person requesting a book from you or not- they have the same right to use Bookmooch as you do, and their requests must be honoured.

    I can respect that some people might not “like” Better World Books (although I personally think they are doing a pretty great job!), but at the end of the day, that shouldn’t matter.

    I support BWB having a Bookmooch account, since they will be subject to the same rules as everyone else: they will also be bound by the 2:1 ratio (which means that if they were really only listing books that “nobody” wanted, they could still only mooch two books even if they did have sixteen bjillion points), and users can still leave feedback for them. As a volunteer administrator, I can assure you that users who rack up a significant amount of negative feedback are typically reported to us very quickly.

    I am not in favour of BWB being given special status or that any rules are waived for them. However, I am 100% in support of Better World Books being given a fair chance to prove themselves as contributing and conscientious members of the Bookmooch community.

  117. Heather19 said

    Cheryl, the problem with your advice/way of thinking is that we CAN’T “decide whether to do business with them or not on an individual basis”. If BWB becomes a BM member, we HAVE to honor any mooch we recieve from them. We cannot reject their mooch, no matter what our opinions are about them or how shifty we think they are, because it is against BM policy. BM policy states that members must accept any mooches they get (except for a few special circumstances, such as high postages). So you are wrong, we CAN’T just choose not to deal with them.

  118. terrilee said

    I don’t have an opinion on BWB. I do have an opinion on someone having the resources to snap up all wishlisted books by bot or multiple employees scanning the database constantly….. no matter which user is operating that way.

    I came to this site because I hated other sites’ FIFO wishlist waits, but now I’m re-thinking that because at least it is fair.

    I would just like to see this question addressed. Are we going to have a level-playing field or not?

  119. Carly said

    Another question I have is that, if BWB does wreak havoc on the BM economy in some way, can John kick them out if they haven’t actually violated any of the terms of service?
    I would think a commercial entity would be much less willing to go quietly than an individual member, especially if it has accumulated points.

    Another question is simply whether BWB is ready to be a respectful member of this community or intends to be a greedy sponge. I am concerned, as others have stated, that while BWB will offer books that some people want, they will snap up the most desired books using automated techniques. Also, because they would be so large compared to others, if they mooched double the amount of books they sent out–as permitted with the mooch ratio–that could be a really large number, and an imposition on the rest of us by requiring us to send books to them when requested but not leaving us much to choose from. Now, I rarely see a member with more than a 1.5:1 ratio, and in absolute terms, the number of books they have mooched is not that much more than the number given. That might not be true with a profit-driven enterprise, and then those of us required to send those extra books to BWB are having to subsidize them whether we like them or not.

  120. Cheryl said

    I stand corrected about being able to reject a mooch for any reason the owner wants. My apologies to anyone whom I have offended or misinformed with my unintentional stupidity.

    You do have the choice about whether to mooch *FROM* BWB though, and without people willing to mooch from them, they will still be locked by the ratio and points throttles.

  121. Another question I have is that, if BWB does wreak havoc on the BM economy in some way, can John kick them out if they haven’t actually violated any of the terms of service?

    Yes, anyone who detracts from the value of the service can be kicked off, on my opinion or that of the admins.

    My feeling with BWB is “wait and see”. They’re certainly aware of the criticism on this forum, and that people are eager to jump all over them if they don’t act super-well. Their plan is to start very small, to learn how BM works, and learn how they can be a good member.

    If we get complaints about their actual behavior, the admins (and myself) will deal with them, bring them up for discussion with BWB, and resolve them. Just how we would treat any member…

  122. I’d like to share some additional thoughts to offer another perspective to some of the previous negative comments.

    Several members have disparaged the ethics of Better World Books. I don’t think any members or prospective members should be excluded or restricted based on their actions outside of BookMooch. If you behave according to the rules of BookMooch you should be welcome here. With over 60,000 members I’m sure BookMooch has all sorts of criminals — murderers, embezzlers, rapists, burglars, child molesters, etc — but they are good members here as long as they don’t behave badly in their BookMooch activities. And that’s as it should be. Just as it’s against policy to reject a mooch based on what you think a moocher will do with your book, it is also against policy to reject a mooch based on your estimation of a moocher’s character. If you can’t reject a mooch because a moocher is a felon, then you certainly shouldn’t be able to reject a mooch because a member exaggerates his charitable contributions, as people have accused BWB of doing.

    Some people have acted like it’s a certainty that Better World Books will hire people to mooch the most wishlisted books on BookMooch. I think that’s unlikely. If hiring someone to mooch books is to make economic sense, the moocher would have to generate more revenue from his mooches than he is paid in salary. Let’s assume BWB creates a large wishlist and hires someone to constantly check the wishlist and mooch any wishlisted books that become available. I would be surprised if the employee could mooch enough books to pay his own salary. At least one person said BWB would hire a staff of wishlist checkers. The mooching staff would have to be able to mooch enough books to pay all their salaries. Potential profits would be reduced due to competition with other obsessive wishlist checkers, who would have just as good a chance to get each popular book.

    Some people are against Better World Books because of the belief that BWB would automate the mooching process. If automated mooching becomes a problem I’m sure John will implement a solution. The solution could be programmed or the solution could simply be to disallow the practice and cancel the accounts of members who do it. The threat of automated mooching is not unique to BWB and should not be used against them before they are even a member. Any member with the technical expertise could set up automated mooching. The practice should be dealt with when and if it becomes a problem. Similarly, automated wishlist checking is available to anyone with the technical knowledge to implement it. Whether John decides to allow or disallow it has nothing to do with BWB.

    It’s natural that some people focus on the negative possibilities and some focus on the positive possibilities — pessimists versus optimists. I know some of the books on my wishlist are not valuable, but they haven’t been offered on BookMooch. I just used the first ten titles on my wishlist as a sample and see that one is available on Amazon for 50 cents. BWB processes so many books that I’m hoping some of my wishlisted books will be listed by them. I have many books in my inventory that have prices of more than $3 on Amazon, yet no one has mooched them from me, to read or to sell. If BWB wants to mooch those books and sell them, great. I would get rid of books I don’t want, earn points, and free up space in my bookcase for books other BookMoochers might find more desirable. I see gaining a member with a large wishlist and a large inventory as positive for BookMooch.

    Other concerns have been raised. If Better World Books hurts BookMooch, then John can get rid of them. In a blog comment above John said, “Yes, anyone who detracts from the value of the service can be kicked off, on my opinion or that of the admins.” As with any decision, I’m sure if John makes a decision that obviously hurts BookMooch, then he will reevaluate his decision and take appropriate action.

  123. Carly said

    John, thanks for giving thoughtful consideration to all the comments posted here. I love BookMooch!

  124. Hi. I read very many of your other posts and wanted to learn if you would be interested by exchanging blogroll links?

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