Ask me first : now completely revamped

June 11, 2008

On your member profile page, you have the option to indicate whether you are willing to send your books to other countries.

The choices are:


Until today, the “ask me” option wasn’t enforced by BookMooch, it relied on people doing the right thing themselves.

There were two big problems with the old system:

1) if you were honest and asked first, someone else might mooch the book while you were waiting for the book owner to read their email and give you permission.

2) people could (and did) ignore the “ask me” setting and would mooch a book right away, without asking. This left the giver in the awkward position of rejecting the mooch request, and having the rejection as part of their permanent record, even though they did nothing wrong. Some people felt it was legitimate to mooch-without-asking, because of the problem above (someone mooching your book while you wait for permission).

As of today, BookMooch:
* enforces the “ask me” setting
* allows the book giver to say “no” without penalty
* reserves the book for 7 days for the requester
* provides workflow tools to make the process easier.

Here is how this all works.

When you go to mooch a book, if the only copy available is from someone who says “ask me first”, then the page will look like this:


Notice how the other fields normally displayed on the mooch page are not displayed, since the only real option you have at this point is to ask for the book.

If there are several copies of the book available, the “ask first” sources will be placed at the bottom of the page.

The next step is to send your request. You can include a comment if you like, but this isn’t required.


your request is confirmed:


The book is automatically reserved for 7 days for you, so that someone else can’t mooch the book while you are waiting for a response.

The book owner receives an email that looks like this:

Subject:  BookMooch: (United Kingdom) will you send to my country?
Date:     June 11, 2008 3:39:28 PM BST

Are you willing to send this book to my country? (United Kingdom)

Title:  The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
Author: Dave Ramsey

Please click this URL to let me know:

Note that this email request is sent From: the requester’s email address, so that the book owner can reply by email to the request.

When the book giver clicks on the URL in the email, they will see this page:


notice how the YES choice is the much bigger button, to make it easy to differentiate between the two.

After the book owner clicks YES or NO, an email is sent to the requester.

The YES email looks like this:

From:     BookMooch <>
Subject:  BookMooch: yes! (The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness)
Date:     June 11, 2008 3:39:28 PM BST

Yes! I am willing to send my book to your country!

You should mooch it now:

Title:  The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
Author: Dave Ramsey

and the NO email looks like this:

From:     BookMooch <>
Subject:  BookMooch: sorry (The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness)
Date:     June 11, 2008 3:39:28 PM BST

Sorry, but I have decided not to send this book to your country.

Thank you for asking, though!

Title:  The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
Author: Dave Ramsey

Notice that the email address of the book giver is *not* given in the automatically-generated replies. This is on purpose, so that if the book giver chooses not to give out their email address, they don’t have to. Also, it might make people nervous to refuse to send a book when the requester has their email address, out of a fear of retaliation.

If you deny the request, the 7 day reservation is removed, and anyone can once again mooch the book. If the book giver doesn’t respond within 7 days, the reservation will expire on its own.

There is an element of trust in this process, that I want to describe now.

When you request a book in this way, your own email address is the From: on the request, so that the book owner can easily correspond with you. For example, they might simply reply “sure, no problem!” and not bother clicking the URL. Or, a dialogue between moocher and owner may ensue, such as the book owner looking up the postal costs to mail the book, and replying later.

To support this informal dialogue, I decided to let the requester mooch the book once they have asked first, even if the book owner has not clicked YES or NO yet. The reason I did this, is because I tend to not like computer systems that require people to do everything their way, and which don’t support the reality of human interaction.

In other words, after you send an “ask first” request, if you get an email back from the book owner saying “sure, go ahead and mooch it!” you can go and mooch and the system won’t stop you, because you’ve asked for permission, and BookMooch assumes that if you’re mooching after asking for permission, it must be because you’ve obtained permission.

The downside to this approach is that someone could click “ask me”, and then 5 minutes later, mooch the book, even though the book owner hasn’t yet replied. In that case, the book owner would simply reject the mooch, and give negative feedback to the moocher, as well as (possibly) reporting them for abuse.

I’d like to give this “loose and friendly” approach in place for now. It would be fairly simple for me to require the book owner to click YES before the international-mooch is allowed, and if it turns out that needs to happen, I’ll do that.

58 Responses to “Ask me first : now completely revamped”

  1. Brendan said

    Another great innovation. One suggestion, though. Is there a way you could let the giver of the book forward the process to “Mooch” status immediately rather than making the requester do a second mooch?

    It would also be helpful to know/establish/discuss the protocol for a giver who finds themselves on day 6 without having gotten a reply. Is the etiquette that they give up the mooch?

  2. Erin C said

    Again John a nice change. Thank you for all your hard work at Bookmooch. I especially like the way your e-mail address isn’t readily given.
    I love Bookmooch!

  3. Lethe said

    This looks like it should work well, I look forward to using it.

    One small suggestion: In the subject of the initial ask first email, it would be useful if it included the book title in the request, instead of just “Bookmooch Will you send to my country?”

    Thanks again!

  4. outcold said

    This is great.

  5. Brandy said

    John, thank you for all that you do. These new features are thoughtful and considerate of others, just like Bookmooch! Thanks again from all of us, I’m sure.

  6. Stephanie (smoorefu on bookmooch) said

    Really nicely done. Thanks for the well thought out change!

  7. Suzi said

    Hi John!
    When a book is reserved for an ‘ask first’, does any message/indicator pop up for other potential moochers? For example, there’s a book on my wishlist that I cannot mooch, even though the user is also in the US. I assume this is because the book is reserved for an international ‘ask me’ moocher, but there is nothing to indicate this fact anywhere to other moochers. If this new feature could be tweaked – because it is otherwise AWESOME – to let other moochers know what’s happening, that would be fantastic.


  8. Eva said

    I’m new here but this redone feature looks great. I know I don’t want any rejected mooches on my record just because someone didn’t ask first if that’s how I have mine set. Thanks!

  9. merlin13 said

    Another great improvement, thanks a lot. I especially love that the country of the requester will show in the email message. In the past I got several emails asking if I would ship to “my” country without really knowing which country or who the requester was (hard to find a member by email only). Great addition, thanks!

  10. Bookbear said

    Question: If the sender Clicks YES, why not just have that initiate the mooch? That would take out several steps and a lot of possible confusion.

    I also think it would be nice if the sender could input their own text in the NO option email – like explaining WHY they aren’t willing to send the book.

    For instance – “I can’t send this book to your country right now, but I may be able to send it next month after I get my paycheck.”

    Or “I’m sorry, but this book is just too heavy for me to afford to send to your country.”

    (I just posted several heavy textbooks to my inventory that weigh over 2 or 3 pounds each. The price of sending them just over the border to Canada is outrageous. And I have another stack of REALLY heavy ones I haven’t posted yet.)

  11. Carrie said

    I just mooched (Reserved?) Three books from Japan. The owner is willing to send me them. I like the idea of the reserve system, but I would like to see an any books I asked on on my Pending Page, so I know who I asked and when, and I agree with Brenden that it would just be easier for all parties if the after a mooch was excepted, it just gets automatically mooched.

    Personally, I think it is a definite improvement over the old way of asking, but The system you have now has too many steps, too many emails, and could be refined to simply allowing international users to mooch the book without asking, and canceling international mooches without penalty.

  12. Heather19 said

    LOVE the new feature (ask first was definitely in need of an overhaul) and revamp! I do agree with Suzi, tho, it will be very frustrating to see a book available in my own country and then not be able to mooch it, without anything showing that it is reserved.

  13. Hope said

    Wow! Thanks so much – I really like this, and am looking forward to testing it out!

  14. I love it!

    Thank you, John.

    I missed a book because there wasn’t a seven day reserve and still pine after it a bit.

    We will discover with use if there are any unintended consequences.

    I really am glad you put this into the process.



    Today and yesterday, mooching my heart out. Or sending out books, anyway.

  15. Sporenburg said

    Thanks a lot! This was something I really disliked about Bookmooch. The new procedure looks promising.

  16. Jday said

    Great idea, John! I appreciate all that you. The key to any succesful business is flexibility. Your willingness to try new things, experiment with different methods is what makes BookMooch great!

  17. Kitty Howlett said

    I live in Canada & would love to be able to specify that I am willing to send to both Canada AND the United States without having Americans have to ask permission.
    Also, being able to specify that CERTAIN books in my inventory are moochable by all, but that others are ONLY available to specific members (which is something I already try to do with my bio & book condition notes, but some members don’t always take the time to actually READ the notes) would be really nice too.

    Thanks for being so awesome! 🙂

  18. Lethe wrote:
    One small suggestion: In the subject of the initial ask first email, it would be useful if it included the book title in the request, instead of just “Bookmooch Will you send to my country?”

    I (mostly) agree with you, and have now done this: the book title is now at the end of the subject line.

    However, it does make for a very long subject, so let’s see what other people say and if they think it’s too long.

  19. Zillah said

    Ye Gods! This is what I’ve been waiting for- the one thing I disliked about BookMooch has been cured!

    Thank you so much John- I think the new system is perfect! I love love love it! Thank you thank you thank you! xxxxxxxxx

  20. Alasen said

    Thank you for this. It’s what I’ve been wishing for, having missed out on mooches because I asked first where others didn’t.

  21. Nymeth said

    This is absolutely brilliant. Thank you so much!

  22. Jon said

    What a wonderful addition. I have on numerous occasions politely asked whether a book can be sent, only to find that someone has nabbed it in the meantime. It’s been very frustrating, and this is EXACTLY what I was hoping for. Thanks so much!

  23. Christine said

    Brilliant — I used it this morning, actually, to mooch a book from my wishlist.

    One thing, though. I’m in Canada and I wanted to mooch a book from the States. The subject of the email that got sent on my behalf was “BookMooch: (America) will you send to my country?”. Any reason that the moochee’s country got put into the subject line, instead of mine?

  24. crazy-book-lady said

    As someone who has had several books mooched out from under her while politely waiting for email replies, I heartily applaud this change! Woo hoo!! Thank you so much!

  25. Debra said

    Thanks so much for changing this, John! It’s a really great change. 🙂

  26. Leeny said

    I LOVE this!! Thanks John, this is a great change. There have been too many instances when I had to reject unnecessarily, and a couple of other times when I’ve missed out on a book by doing the right thing but then someone else goes ahead to mooch the book. This feature is great and really helps in these situations. A BIG thank you again! 🙂

  27. terri said

    i agree with kitty howlett. a preset option for willing to ship b/w us and canada is somethign i’ve been looking for. but this is a great improvement and sounds like this system definitely covers the small problems that plagued the old way of “ask me”. you’re fantastic as always john!

  28. zzzKatzzzz said

    hey John,

    this is a GREAT change!!! thank you so much!

    my situation: im willing to send overseas if people mooch 2 books minimum. is there a way to be able to put this stipulation in a special box (in the profile area) that would then show when someone goes to mooch a book? some people just dont take the time to read the bio before they mooch–me included. esp if the book is in heavy demand–sometimes there just isnt enough time to read the bio before mooching, if you do take the time to read it you sometimes lose the mooch.

    just wondering if this could be done. keep up the great work! this site just keeps getting better & better! you keep surprising us. thanks for all you do!


  29. Jacquelyn said


    A thousand thanks for this, John.

  30. Mike said

    This is an improvement in promoting international mooches!

    John, while you’re basking in the deserved limelight for this step forward, is it too early to suggest another step?

    How about allowing more points for international shipments? I like the 1 point spread between moocher and moochee, but how about giving the moocher the power to approve a higher number?

    Example: I went to the post office to get a price on sending a book from the U.S. to a potential moocher in Malta. The P.O. said US$11.95. This is 5.36 times the typical US$2.23 charged for media mail within the U.S. Why can’t I suggest I’ll take 6 points (instead of 3) if the moocher will approve a 5 point reduction from her total? Or even 5-4 instead of 6-5. Heck, why not 6-5 if she is willing to ok 5 from her end?

    Otherwise, I may as well wait for 5 domestic moochers to mooch 5 books at a shipping cost of US$11.15 ($2.23 X5) and receive 5 points that way.

    It would make international shipments more affordable to the shippers.

  31. Ashleigh said

    Once again John, you’re spot on with giving the moochers what they want.

  32. Nic said

    I’ve just had a couple of mooches requested, and in the title line, they both say “United Kingdom” (which is MY location) when in fact the moocher was in the USA …

    Is this a glitch or am I understanding things wrongly?

  33. Nic said

    And one other question – is it possible for the email or the reply page to contain a clickable link to the person’s shelf? I’d like to see their mooching record before I make a final decision.

  34. Rita said

    First of all, thank you very much for addressing this issue that was considered problematic by so many users. I’ve used the new ask me feature and am only now awaiting the decision of the owner.

    However, I noticed books continue to be apparently available even after they’ve been reserved to someone and anyone can go and try to mooch them. Of course, in this case they’ll get a message saying they can’t but it’s currently the same default message as when you tried to mooch a book from someone who didn’t ship to your country. This has been a source of great confusion to those trying to mooch books from people in the same country as theirs. It’s even more confusing for those who don’t check the forums and/or BM blog. Is there any way to change the message one gets when trying to mooch a reserved book and differentiate it from the message one gets when trying to mooch a ‘won’t ship to your country’ book? Something like ‘I’m sorry, but this book has been reserved for another Bookmooch member’.

    Better yet, is there a way to make the book un-moochable when it’s reserved? It’s really frustrating to find a book with a ‘mooch’ button and get that annoying message.

    Just a couple of suggestions to add to the greatness of the new system.

    Thanks John, for all your hard work!


  35. A few answers to questions…

    re: wrong country in subject line of reserve emails.

    Yes, that’s a bug, I’ll fix it shortly.

    re: member’s shelf url should be in reserve email msg

    That’s a good idea, I’ll do that shortly.

    re: if the only book is reserved during a mooch, say so, don’t say “none is available”

    I agree, this will be done shortly.

    re: will email to another country if two books mooched

    You can edit your profile and put a message in your Status, which will be displayed in red bold when people mooch from you. I have a message like that for myself, which you can see when you mooch from me:

  36. […] 12, 2008 Several people suggested in my previous blog post that the newly introduced system for “ask me first” has too many […]

  37. Michelle (mitcho) said

    I’m so glad this feature has been included and I don’t mind how many clicks I have to make. I’m just happy that I won’t miss out on mooching a book while waiting for the book owner to reply to my email – a frustrating event that has happened many times.
    I agree that noting reserved books on our pending page is useful and am glad you plan to include it.
    Congratulations on your hard work!
    I love bookmooch!! 🙂

  38. Rosemarie (Freecyclor) said

    Thanks so much for this! I gave it a good workout yesterday – 6 to/from international mooches, and except for the first (confusion all round), it worked perfectly.

  39. Michelle said

    Excellent…I also love the vacation setting…as I get ready for my Mexican excusion.

  40. Elizabeth ("fullmoonblue") said

    Gee, how many more ways can this site rock? 🙂

  41. Stuart Campbell said

    I think this may have been mentioned, but I would like to see a section on my “Pending” page that lists books I currently have reserved. It’s already come up that I requested three books, the owner sent one email saying yes to all three, but I could not recall which others I had asked about. He says he received just two emails about requests from me. So, I am now left wondering if I was thinking of someone else, or if one of them got lost in transit. In any case, I am going to start keeping my own list, but it sure would be nice to have either/both an email sent to me whenever I make a request, such requests showing up on the “Pending” page.



  42. zzzKatzzzz said

    thank you John for addressing my situation. i didnt realize the status shows for each book that is ready to mooch. i couldnt check my books cause it wont let me mooch from myself. im very glad to see this.

    thanks again,

  43. Nancy said

    Thanks, John.
    Just had 3 ‘asks’ & then Mooches….works perfectly.

  44. Leah said

    Oh my gosh, I am elated. I got totally jammed on this before. I was totally pressured when I refused to send a book outside of the US and got suspended for such refusal. I am elated that I no longer could be penalized for saying no. I sent it by registered mail even and got a ding in feedback for no reason. It was a dreadful situation. John, I thought of writing you over this but opted to just let it go. I am thrilled you are looking into this. Thanks and take care.

  45. Jil said

    Could someone please tell me if there is a place to get help on the BookMooch site? I have a problem I’d like to ask someone about.

    Thank you moocho!

  46. andrea said

    you can try and look at the wiki :

    or ask the folks at the forum:


  47. Winna said

    Thank you for the new system! Recently someone mooched 18 books from my inventory without asking, and I couldn’t reject them, and she wouldn’t cancel because these will show up in the records. It wasn’t only awkward but confusing.

    Thanks for this!

  48. andrea said

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned previously in the thread but I noticed that if you try to mooch a book that’s reserved it will take you to the page that now tells you that the book is reserved for some other prospective moocher. The problem is that the link with the moocher’s name doesn’t take you to the respective bio, but to the book giver’s friends page (which I guess would work when the book was reserved for the giver’s friends – which is not the case).
    not a big problem but I thought I’d point it out anyway.

  49. Graceann said

    Thank you so much for this change – I hope that this will eliminate the problem of people simply not answering the email I send asking if I may mooch from them. More often than not, I simply don’t bother to ask because the folks simply don’t bother to answer. I don’t mind hearing “no;” I realize that postage from the States is expensive. What I DO mind is being ignored.

  50. Bookbear said

    I just got my first “Ask First” International request – and boy did I get confused! So I’m posting this comment for others…

    Today I posted a book that was on 18 Wishlists. I figured it would be mooched quickly, so after posting it I left the browser open and went and ate a sandwich. When I came back to check my Pending page to see if it had been mooched yet, it hadn’t. So I checked my Inventory to make sure the posting had gone through. It was there.

    Immediately after posting the book I added condition notes, then hit the “Back to Book” button and noticed that it said “Available: No copies available”, so I clicked on the title link to make sure there wasn’t a glitch in the system.

    Imagine my confusion on seeing that the book was Reserved. I knew I didn’t Reserve it for anyone when I posted it.

    I hadn’t checked my email, so I hadn’t seen the “Will you send to my country” notice, so…

    Long story short: If you are set to “Ask First” and someone from another country tries to mooch your book then the book will show as Reserved for them on the book Detail page.

  51. Lisa said

    I have used the reservation system and ask me for 10 books from one person in Canada. It seemed awful confusing. May just be me but it seemed that as the moochee had “ask me” on her books that unless I had the books on my “wishlist” she did not show up as an option to mooch from.(She was doing a 2 for 1 sale and as I already had several wishlist books available from her, I wanted to make her shipment worth while) Once I wishlisted the books, I could mooch from her. The reservations definitely need to show on our pending page.

  52. Ariadna said

    Great idea! and it would be even greater if this could be done by book, i.e. usually I am happy to send out of my country, but there are particular books that are too heavy, and therefore,too expensive to send abroad…

  53. mitcho said

    This is a wonderful idea and I actually used it a few days ago with no problem.
    Today, however, although my request was accepted I can’t mooch the book I asked for from the person I requested it from. Her name does not come up in the choices available. Help Please!

  54. Shellie said

    Oops, I was one of your human factors failures. I recently carried on e-mail correspondence with the intended moocher of one of my books, told him I would send it in a couple of weeks, and then failed to follow up (or even realize) when I didn’t get an ‘official’ mooch request from him. Now someone else has reserved the book for the next 7 days, and I’m forced to reject her, even though she didn’t realize that there was already an agreement in place.

    Maybe it would be helpful to send a reminder e-mail to both parties 24 hours before a reservation is set to expire, to let them know they need to make a decision or the temporary hold will be lifted?


  55. J.D. said

    Weighing in on this feature “late.” I gotta say, THANKS, John. What a relief this feature is! Prior to this, I had to alternately change my status from “Worldwide” to “My country only” whenever my PO budget was spent. And then back again when I could afford to send oversears. Very tedious, as I know you know! The old “ask first” never worked, as people would mooch without asking, or if they did, someone else would scarf the book, causing much headspinning. Anyway, not adding anything to the conversation here, except that I really appreciate this new option. It allows me to not fuss with my profile, and take requests as they come!

  56. Kimski said

    I’m a bit confused.

    A book in my wishlist has become available for mooching. The person is OS and an Ask Firster, but no ask first button appears on their page……

    Ok I just figured it out, it’s reserved.

    Maybe it would be helpful if it showed as “reserved” on my wishlist. Just a thought.

    Thanks for all your work.

  57. Denise said

    This is working out great with the Reserve for Ask First.

    However, the friends link for Reserve for Friends is very discouraging to anyone seeing a copy of a book is available only to click the link and see the message – something to the effect ‘this is reserved for my friends. You aren’t my friend.” This seems in contradiction to the rule of reasons a rejection is acceptable or nonacceptable. Now if a moocher isn’t a friend, its a rejection. This seems to me to be a great loss of community feeling and is cliquish to have this kind of message attached to a listing. I hope something in future can be done to change or get rid of this feature as it is now.

    Still applauding the Ask First reserve though~~!


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