Survey Two

June 29, 2009

Professor and moocher Karl Fast has given me some preliminary results from the second survey that took place 3 weeks ago.

Karl wrote me this morning:

The findings document is a brief summary of the survey that you could post to the blog as away of letting the community know we found.

The forums document is a quick extraction of all data about the forums. It includes the results from the forum question and all comments that mention the forum. We thought you might find this useful as you work on implementing the new forums.

The reservations document is another quick extraction, this time with data about the reservation system. It includes data from the reservation question and all comments that mention this feature.

Thiago has interviewed 3 additional people. He had planned to interview 1-2 more, but he just landed a job with a design firm. So he’s busy moving next week and will be finishing his report over July and submitting it in early August. The report should be useful to you, but it won’t be written in as useful or clear a style as our report from last fall because it has to meet university guidelines for formatting, style, and so forth. In other words, it has to be written in a dull, objective, detailed, and boring style.

General Findings:

Goals for using BookMooch
An essential part of the BookMooch experience is the transaction: the act of sending and getting books via mail. Similar to our previous research, we found that exchanging books for the joy of trading books is an important goal for BookMooch users. It was ranked as the fifth most popular goal, after getting books that I want to read, recycling my books, finding a home for my books and creating more space in my house, respectively. Interestingly, we found that more than half of the users never or rarely include personal notes when sending books (63% never or rarely do that).

Actions before mooching
Most BookMoochers examine the other member’s inventory and profile before mooching a book. The numbers indicate that 67% of users examine others’ inventories most of the time or always, whereas 63% examine others’ profiles most of the time or always. In contrast, the majority of users said that they don’t have a picture on their own profile pages (81% of them don’t). BookMooch widgets are not popular either. Only 7% of users said they have widgets on their profiles. The history of previous transactions doesn’t seem as popular as profiles and inventories. Only 43% of users reported that they check it most of the time or always, when mooching a book.

Establishing personal connections via email
BookMoochers are willing to communicate when asked to or when there’s a problem during a transaction. However, they’re not as keen to establish a personal connection just for the sake of exploration. Emailing users before mooching a book is not a popular activity. We found that 67% of people never or rarely do that. On the other hand, the majority of users said they answer emails regarding books that are on their inventory (91% do it most of the time or always), send emails when shipping is delayed (92% do it most of the time or always) and email moochers if any problem happen before shipping a book (85% do it most of the time or always).

International swapping
The numbers indicate that 52% of users do international swapping most of the time or always, 17% do it some of the time and 31% never or rarely participate in such transactions. Likewise, our previous research had indicated that a considerable number of people were not willing to send books overseas. One way to stimulate transactions among people from different countries may be to simply make them aware of the Angel Network. We found that 15% percent of BookMooch users never heard about Angels. Currently, only 19% of BookMoochers participate in the Network.


Question: I participate on the BookMooch Forum (out of 1389 answers)

Yes: 329 – 24%
No: 915 – 66%
Never heard of it: 145 – 10%

I use the LibraryThing forums instead of the Bookmooch ones, as they work better.

I am finding that as a new member I seem to be giving away nearly all of the books that I have read or don’t want before I start thinking about what I would like to receive. I will be interested in how this next stage of my bookmooch membership is aided by the site, eg in terms of forums, discussions, recommendations. I lack the confidence so far to discuss books with other readers. I see myself as a voyeur of what other people are reading rather than a participator in discussions. I think the concept of bookmooch is both honourable and exciting. A great idea and one that I keep telling my friends about.

The questions about why I use Bookmooch were difficult to answer. While I do like having conversations about books and interacting with people who like books, these things are impossible to do on Bookmooch with it’s forums as is. I do these things on Librarything and Goodreads, not Bookmooch. / Preeteens manage to have websites with functioning forum/discussion boards, I’m not sure why Bookmooch can’t seem to manage it.

I would like to be able to use BookMooch again as a social network. The lack of forums is causing a disconnect in the BM community.

I love Bookmooch and the forums…I have learned many things through the communications.

I don’t use the forum feature because it is incredibly slow to the point where it is unusable. When I want to talk about Bookmooch i use the forum on LibraryThing or / / I get very irritated when I get an email about a wishlist book that has become available, only to find that the owner will not send it to my country (UK). / /

BookMooch rocks! I use BookMooch everyday to mooch books I want to read, haven’t heard of before but were recommended to me, and books that I’ve already read but want a better looking copy. I read messages on the BM forum as well as the BM group on LibraryThing.

I’m enjoying being here. I’m a member also at PBS and I think each site has different strengths. / / Have tried to access the forums here but rarely able to because access was inordinately slow. / / I cut my wishlist drastically a while back but still have well over 1000 books on it; for quite a while I have rarely gotten anything on the list. Not sure why. / / Thanks for the site!

Make the discussion forums easier. I’ve asked questions twice and never got answers. Heck, i dont even know if my questions were actually posted.

I would like to be involved on the forums, but have not been able to access them. I don’t know if it is because I have a Mac and use Safari or if there is some other sort of login process that I somehow missed.

The forums are awfully slow. I don’t know if it’s only my problem. / I love to include some small additional stuff with my books – like postcards, bookmarks or teabags.

Please improve the speed of the current BookMooch Forum. It is WAY to slow to use on a frequent basis.

I don’t use BookMooch for any of it’s “features” i.e. forums, recommendations, etc. They are too difficult to navigate/locate. I like the simplicity of it’s purpose: to trade books. I use another trading site for the social networking aspects of book trading. BookMooch is not even in the same ball park, but it works for trading.

bookmooch needs a better forum program

I love Bookmooch and have had many successful book swaps. I would be interested in using the forums to talk to other members but have never been able to get that feature to work.

Most of my comments would be about how it’s hard to use the widgets – have read about them, but still cannot figure it out. Have seen a forum, but couldn’t find it again. Many of the features that I see once, I cannot figure out how to find them again!

I don’t use the bookmooch forums, but I do contribute to conversations in the bookmooch forum on LibraryThing. I use LibraryThing to communicate with other readers, and bookmooch to give away and acquire books. I receive more than I give away, because I usually can’t bear to part with books I have read. I do keep an eye out for free piles and cheap books at yard sales to buy and mooch.

Have never been able to get anyone involved in the administration of Bookmooch to answer questions or provide technical support. I would like to participate in the forum, but have never been able to log into it, and can’t get a volunteer to answer my email asking for help. The Wiki does not answer my questions, and comments left by others suggest I am not the only one with this problem.

I love Bookmooch, I’m from a Latin American country and it’s allowed me to mooch books in English (unavailable or extremely expensive) and send my own books in English or Spanish to many different countries. I’ve met several great and friendly members through the forum, they are always making jokes, holding contests. All in all, it’s a very positive experience that has ensured that I won’t run out of books to read in a very long time 🙂

I LOVE bookmooch. It has served me SO well. / / One thing that I think BM could encourage is a rating system and comments about the book itself. When I’m browsing for books, I typically check my visual bookshelf for feedback from other readers. It would be nice if this flourished in bookmooch so I could get more information from this site alone. Some forums to discuss the books might be nice too and make this a more complete, interesting site. / / Great job though. Keep up the good work!

Regarding the question about whether I have asked/answered questions on the forum – I indicated yes b/c I have tried, but I did not find the forum very user-friendly, and, if I recall correctly, I had to try to post several times before it would let me. I also do not think anyone ever answered my question once I finally posted successfully. I haven’t checked the forum in a very long while as a result, but if it is still the same, I would suggest it be improved.

I could give my books away to Goodwill, but there’s something about the personal connection of having an individual request a particular book that is satisfying. / I also discover so many books that I want to read while browsing BM and reading the forums. It’s a wonderful community. / / However, at this point, I have given away and mooched a lot of books, still have points to spend, and am not finding many books available that I want.

I use’s BookMooch forum to participate in discussions about BookMooch – issues, ask or answer questions, when I need an angel, likes, frustrations…

I hate forum!!! It sucks a lot, it’s incredibly slow, not functional, example of demotivating-to-use forum. There are so many cool tools to be used to create an excellent forum and I can’t understand why they are not used. I never will use this terrible forum, that’s for sure! / / The database – both books and users is terribly messy! There are thousands of not exsisting information, wrong data, users who do not use BM since 3 years and so on…

I use Bookmooch mostly because it doesn’t have a FIFO system and can therefore get harder to get books quicker. However, it is hard to get books that I want becuase I am always looking for recently published books and can usually get them quicker on Paperbackswap. / I do like shipping international and getting books internationally becuase books in England come out sooner if the author is from England. I’ve gotten books this way which is better than waiting for the book to come out in America. / I would love to see an easier way of looking at books that other people are mooching or reading in specfic categories. Since I am a teacher and have met other teachers or parents lookng for specfic books, it would be nice to see a forum or a way to see what other teachers and parents are getting for their students.

Just joined but nice trading site. I have never been able to access the forums though.

I don’t use the BM forums, but I frequently use the BM forum at Librarything. (frequently = almost daily)


Question: When I list books I reserve my books for friends (out of 1358 answers)

Never: 764 – 56%
Rarely: 346 – 25%
Some of the time: 179 – 13%
Most of the time: 36 – 3%
Always: 33 – 3%

Love the site and community, but I really despise the fact that a book on my wishlist still has the “Mooch” button next to it, when the book is reserved or the member will not ship out of their country. I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten excited to see a book on my wishlist just to click “Mooch” and find out that “Sorry, no one is willing to send this book to you”. / Other than that, I have no complaints!

I use Bookmooch to give away the books I already read that I got from bargains or thrift shops, or from high-end bookstore sales. I usually find out that books I got cheaper than the original price (due to occasional sale since the books) is mostly on wishlists so it gets mooched. / / However, it isn’t the same when it comes to my wishlist: I rarely get the book that I really want. Most of the time the sender does not send to my country, or the book is already reserved for someone else but I am notified if it is listed.

I am curious about the emails I occasionally receive letting me know that a book on my wish list is available. On another site, I will only be notified a wish list book is out there if it is being held for me; on bookmooch, invariably, by the time I get to the site to mooch the book it has already been taken by someone else. I have also gotten a rather snotty message “sorry! That book is reserved for someone else!” Which leaves me wondering why, if that is the case, I get those emails, and if I should ever bother paying any attention to them…

I always reserve books, so that they cannot be grabbed out from a member who’s been waiting patiently by someone who “thinks might like that” when it’s posted.

I cannot currently afford to ship overseas, although I do send to Canada. When I answer the ‘ask first’ message, I do not use the form on BookMooch, which does not allow me to include a message. I respond through my e-mail program, letting the moocher know I will leave the reservation in place in case they want time to find an angel. I have helped prospective moochers find an angel if they are unfamiliar with the program.

When I first joined Bookmooch a couple of years ago, wishlisted books were much more readily available and I was constantly mooching and sending. With all of the changes, I very rarely get notification for any books on my wishlist. Often when I do get a notification, the book is already reserved for someone else or it is no longer available.

I’ve been a member of BM since the beginning. I have 55 points and very rarely get to request a wishlisted book, most often when I request I get the “reserved for a friend” message. This has made me change my posting behaviour – I am posting “A-list” books on PaperbackSwap, where I get a constant stream of wishlisted books, rather than on BM which used to be fantastic, but is now a place for my points to pile up unused. Too bad, really, because I love the “feel” of BookMooch, I love sending books around the world to people who can’t get them where they live. I still am doing this (last week I sent books to Australia and Canada) but this is more altruistic than economic – I certainly don’t need the points. I’ll never leave BM, but I am using and enjoying it less than in years past.

I mostly reserve the books I list, sometimes to friends, sometimes to people to sent me an email asking to have the book when I’m done reading it.

I like both the “green” aspect of recycling books and the occassional $ savings. I occassional find an older or hard to find book. But I just spent $9 to send a book to Austrailia and about $7 to send one to Japan. Even for 3 vs 1 point, there is not any equity here. It would be great if there were a chart that tells us generally what the international cost is or give 4 points if the cost is over a certain amount. I know I can figure it out, book by book, but I am time strapped. My page warns people that I have trouble getting to the post office as I travel and work when the post office is open. I also typically tell people this when I accept a mooch. Twice, I have gotten negative feedback. One time, I was unable to get the feedback about feedback button to work. Typically my books are new or lightly used and many wishlists, so I am sad about negative comments. I am also annoyed to see something on my wishlist, but the see a note that says “no one is willing to send you this book.” I suggest a limit for how long books can be reserved. 2 on my wishlist now have been there for over a month, perhaps two. I also worry about the security of BM. I don’t like that my real name and address are available. In the event, I don’t have another opportunity later, I want to make clear that my thoughts are not all negative. Mostly folks are nice, the books are well wrapped and in good or better condition. THanks for asking!

I am from an isolated country so lots of the books on my wish-list, that are available to mooch, appear from international members’ lists – I would like them not to appear if they are reserved and therefore NOT available; otherwise I would like to see the condition etc to check before I ask an ‘angel’; a notification for a book that is NOT available, i.e. reserved, is very frustrating. / Also – an internal notification for an ‘ask first’ would be appreciated as many of my ‘ask first’ requests just don’t make it to the member’s inbox! Even repeated emails often don’t make it either – I know this as I have received bewildered replies telling me so; and the other member is upset at not getting them too. A list – on the pending page – would be good, and linked to a ‘yes I will send’ or a ‘no I am unable to send’ and after that a notification as usual can be sent to the requester. I would like to see the requests I get for ‘ask first’ – my setting – through my pending pages very much. / / Lastly – I would like the ‘books given’ and ‘books mooched’ pages on my home page linked to separate pages; and to be able to see more on a page at a time, rather than trawling and trawling and trawling through pages to see if I have mooched from this person before and when I did. Or doing the same on another member’s pages; especially when the numbers of mooches are high. The latest change John has done with this is not at all helpful to me in this regard. /

Comments from John:

I’m currently working on the forums feature for BookMooch, and hoping to have it available within the next two weeks, so hopefully a lot of the comments about the forums be moot after that. Of course, there will be different complaints then!

Also, the 1st complaint in “reservations” about the “mooch” button appearing even when you can’t mooch the book is no longer true, as that was one of the things I changed based on feedback from this blog. I previously wrote: “The ‘mooch’ button will no longer appear if there are no moocheable copies for you. You no longer need to click ‘mooch’ to see if you can get the book, since the “Moochable copies” field now tells you.”

A few weeks ago I changed the search results page so that books that have the most copies available are displayed first. Most of the comments on that blog entry are negative, but I don’t know if that reflects public opinion, so I’m running a poll. First, I want to explain myself a bit better.

The search results page on BookMooch will always have a tension between:
a) show me the most likely book I want, regardless of whether it’s available or not
b) show most books that are moochable for my search, that’s why I’m at BookMooch!

Amazon doesn’t have this problem, because they’re willing to sell (or backorder) any book, so they can present search results sort like (a) above.

However, my feeling is that BookMooch is about getting books from others, not mainly about buying them, so preference should be made toward books that are moochable.

Part of this problem is that there are two very different kinds of searches people make:
a) general searches, looking for something interesting to mooch (ie, topical or general author)
b) a specific book search, often to add the book to their wishlist

The “best” solution to this problem is to offer a sort choice on the search results, like how froogle does it:

and I think that will be where BookMooch eventually goes.

In the meantime, though, would you prefer I put the search results back to how they were, i.e. alphabetically by author (regardless of moochability) or do you prefer them the way they are now, i.e. with the most available books listed first.

Click the question graphic below to take the survey.


Mooch Before You Buy

June 27, 2009

Last year, I blogged about an experiment I was thinking about, which has now morphed into …

“Mooch before you buy”

Here’s the idea: an author freely gives away copies of their book through BookMooch. Once you’ve read the book, if you:

  • didn’t like it: relist it on BookMooch and send it to someone else.
  • liked it, but want to give it away: consider a small donation to thank the author.
  • want to keep it: give the author a larger gift, about the price you’d pay for the book new in a bookstore.

The goal is to encourage authors to publish books in this “Mooch Economy”, as an alternative to the traditional publishing industry route.

I’m now trying this idea out with a few dozen copies of the book A Cat May Look At A King.

Author and friend and moocher Ramsay Wood has given me 32 new copies of his book “A Cat May Look at a King“. It’s a beautifully full color illustrated set of ancient stories featuring cats, retold by Ramsay.

There are a few goals with this project:

  • Can authors make a little bit of money by giving away a bunch of books through BookMooch’s system? A lot of authors look somewhat dubiously on mooching, since they’re starving already, and so I’d like to see if there isn’t a way to help them.
  • Is there decent money to be made for an author by intentionally encouraging their books to be passed from hand to hand? Currently, they only make money on the “first sale” and thus the publishing industry looks upon recycling/reuse as a loss of revenues, which pits them against ecological concerns.
  • Is the “moochers social network” a way for an author to market a book? Instead of selling your soul to a publishing company, can the recommendations and networking that happen naturally on BookMooch cause a book to interest people, get them reading it and maybe even drum up some revenue for the author?
  • I am particularly interested in self-publishing, as I run the music site Magnatune where musicians self-publish (thus retaining their rights) and make a little bit of money. Is there a similar model possible with books?

I’ve put 32 copies that Ramsay gave me up for mooching. Ramsay has some more of his own that he’ll be sending out (he’s sending from England, I’m sending from the USA).

I’ve made a separate paypal account just for donations for this book, so we can track its success and have good data to report to others. All the money will go the author, BookMooch isn’t getting a cut.

The goal with all this is to have a short “How Authors can use BookMooch” how-to guide, so that this idea can be repeated over and over again, with increasing success.

The initial copies of Ramsay’s book will likely get quickly mooched, so get one quickly, or put it on your wishlist if all the copies are already spoken for.

New search results

June 6, 2009

Books returned by a search used to be ordered alphabetically, but as of today they are ordered by a book’s availability and popularity.

This change is in response to comments that people aren’t happy with the search results page, namely that they often have trouble finding the books they want. I don’t think that an alphabetical list of books is all that helpful.

Here is what the new search page looks like:


compare that same search (for “herbert”) to the old results page:


the first thing you’ll notice is that results are (mostly) sorted by the number of copies available. My assumption is that most of the time you’re searching for something you want to mooch, and so listing highly moochable books first would be helpful.

The sort results are a bit more complicated than that, in that they take several variables into account:

* the most important variable is how many copies are available
* the next most important variable is how many people have the book on their wishlist
* after that, the next variable is how many times the book has been mooched
* and finally, the amazon “sales rank” is included as the least important variable

In practice, all this complicated stuff means:

* if your search is for books that are generally available on BookMooch, the most moochable titles will be listed first
* if you search for books (or authors) who are generally not available on BookMooch, the most desired books will be listed first.
* if you search for books that aren’t traded on BookMooch yet, then Amazon’s sales rank will order the books, with best-selling first

For example, if you search for books by author “Michael Pollan“, which are in huge demand on BM (but rare supply), here is what you’ll find:


there is nothing by Michael Pollan available on BM. However, the books are ordered with the most-in-demand first, so it’s likely that’s the book you intended to find as well.

Another change that I made was to change the order of the “search categories”, such as “Author”, “Title”, “Topic”, so that “Topic” is now displayed first (it was previously last). The reason I made this change was that I was looking at “related searches” and saw that about half the searches are for topics, and not for authors or book titles. However, you’d have to go several pages into the search results to see the matches in the “topic” of a book. Now, topic matches come first.

Furthermore, while Amazon’s topic data is sometimes imperfect, it is often quite good, such as the topic hits for “herbert” above, which listed books with a topic of “Frank Herbert” for the Dune-prequels that are in fact written by his son.

However, I’m certainly aware that the Topic data is not always great, for example on this book “Clash of the Titans”, every actor involved with the movie seems to be listed as a “Topic”:


which causes my first search for “Michael Pollan” to bring up an odd list of books, because actors with those names have appeared in films of these books (among other reasons):


on the old search results page, the “Limit your search to: [author] [title] [topic]” option was at the bottom, and many people didn’t notice it.

I moved those buttons to the top right of the form, because it’s *really* useful to be able to redo the same search, but only match against the “author” field if you were typing in an author name, or a book title if that’s what you were doing:


I made two other small changes as well, relabeling the button:


to now read:


I think that “Show all” wasn’t very clear, namely it didn’t convey the idea that the search results you’re currently looking at are limited to books that are moochable, and you may want to see all the search hits, such as (for example) you are searching for a book to add to your wishlist.

Finally, this button:


is now:


I thought that the most common use of the “show details” feature was to see the covers, so why not make that the button name?

Of these changes, I think that the sort order change is a good improvement, the button labels are a small improvement, but the putting-topic-matches-first change is debatable.

What do you think?

It’s really easy for me to go back to the “author matches first, then title, then topic” that BM previously used. I can also tweak the sort order calculation based on how well it works for you.

If people like the new sort order, I can change the browse-books-pages to use it as well, such as the “browse by topic” pages, which today aren’t very useable, since they list thousands of books in alphabetical order.

The new search sorting takes a lot more computer time to figure out, so search results might be a bit slower now. I have the new server machine ready to go, which has 3x more memory, and twice the number of CPUs. I plan on moving BM to it in a few weeks: that should speed things back up again.

n.b.: I decided to go ahead and change the book-browsing pages (such as browsing topics) to sort books in this new way. I think this makes these pages much more useful, as the results are all very moochable books, and since the amount of wishlisting, previous mooches and amazon sales rank are all taken into account, books that you’re likely to consider are shown (the browse pages also now show the number of copies available in BM):


Moochable copies

June 5, 2009

The book details page now tells you:

1) how many copies are really, truly available for *you* to mooch

2) the names of the book owners for each copy are sorted by: are they in your country?, will they send to your country?, is the book reserved?, do you have to ask them first?, is their account on hold?

If that seems like a lot of information, hopefully an example will make this clear.


In the picture above, this details page indicates that two of the copies are reserved, and one of the copies is from a member whose account is on hold. Therefore, no copies are available.

However, if you are logged in, BM notices that you are one of the friends of one of the book owners, and makes that copy available to you:


When a book that has multiple copies available, each book owner’s relationship to you and your country is automatically taken into account. Here is a part of a very big example:


This example shows you:

  • The “will send” book owners are people in your country and will send you the book without any fuss for 1 point.
  • The “will send to your country” will similarly send to you, but it will cost you 2 points.
  • At the bottom are two people who won’t send to you.


I’ve made three other changes to the book details page.

  • The cover graphic now appears on the far right of the page. Previously, there were 3 columns, with the cover graphic occupying the leftmost column. The problem is that this made the center part, where most of the information resides, a bit narrower. By moving the cover graphic to the top right, I was able to widen this data-rich part by 35%. Books with “Descriptions” are noticeably easier to read now.
  • The “mooch” button will no longer appear if there are no moocheable copies for you. You no longer need to click “mooch” to see if you can get the book, since the “Moochable copies” field now tells you.
  • Clicking the > button next to a book owner takes you to their bio page (previously it took you to their inventory)

I’ve made this set of changes based on feedback about how frustrating it is to have BM make you think you can get a book, only to click the “mooch” button and be told you can’t. Also, people wanted an easier way to see what books were reserved. This set of changes (along with email notification change) came up frequently in the recent survey results.

The other extremely frequent request in the survey results was for better forum software. It’s not quite ready yet, but I’m going to tantalize you with a screen picture of the forum software I’m working on. The forums will be merged directly into BookMooch, and not a standalone web site. You’ll be able to participate in any number of specific forums, as well as create your own forums (and make your own book blogs, if you want).


I’ve been looking at and to see how BookMooch is doing compared to its main competitor For about the first two years, both sites were growing at about the same pace.

Then, sometime around January 2009, paperbackswap started doing quite a bit better, and they seem to have maintained their growth rate.

I’m wondering: why?

What did paperbackswap do that suddenly made them grow?

My own hunch comes from the fact that they never seemed to improve the site much, until the fall of 2008 when suddenly the web site design changed (improving greatly), they buried the “free charter membership for one year, then we might charge you” stipulation (so most people didn’t see it), they pushed their new DVD and CD swapping sites, and a raft of other improvements.

My gut feeling is simply that they became buzzy simply by rapidly improving their offering, and that this built up energy and excitement for their site, which translated into more blogging and eventually a few big press mentions. In general, I feel that if you create a sense of excitement and momentum around a project, that buzz, press and growth follow.

Confusingly, when I read about book swapping sites being compared on discussion forums, I usually find that BookMooch is mentioned far more than any site. For a recent example, last month the Goodreads Horror Aficionados group asked: “Paperbackswap or bookmooch” and BookMooch was the clear favorite (PBS was mentioned a few times, and no other site was mentioned more then twice) among these forum participants.

I’d love to get your thoughts: leave comments below with what you think PBS did that made them suddenly grow? What do you think BM should do? Do you have other metrics?

Using the new Wolfram Alpha search engine, I come up with this chart comparing the daily number of visitors at both sites:


and this table:


Much has been made of Alexa‘s numbers being inaccurate, but it really depends on how they define “unique visitors”. I use a web site analysis program called “Awstats” which has its own definitions, which I think are not very accurate either, namely because determining what a “unique” user is, is actually quite hard. The Alexa numbers, at 48,000 visitors per day (is that unique visitors? I can’t tell), are in the middle of my two stats (25,000 or 60,000 per day):

Uniquev12 shows different numbers, but shows growth in November for PBS:


This chart from Alexa shows the percent of visitors coming from search engines (i.e. google). BM used to get about twice the percent (vs PBS) of its visitors from search engines, but now we’re about equal. That makes me things that PBS started doing better in search engine placement (aka SEO).


So there are the numbers… what are your thoughts?


Fewer wishlist emails

June 5, 2009

Based on the results of a recent survey conducted on this blog, I decided to change the email notifications you get when a book on your wishlist appears on BookMooch. Specifically, I decided to try to only send you an email if the book really is moochable by you.

86% of survey respondents found it annoying to be notified via email that a book was available, when it actually was reserved for someone else. Because the percentage was so high, I decided not to make it an option to receive wishlist notifications of reserved books, but rather to change how it works for everyone. I know, an option would make “everyone happy” but I try really hard to keep BookMooch simple, to not have tons of options and features (aka “feature creep”). Also, each option adds to the amount of programming I have to do, and have to maintain bug-free with each improvement to the site.

As of now, you shouldn’t receive an email about a book on your wishlist, if that book has already been reserved.

However, email is not an instant mechanism, so it’s still possible that the book is available at the time the email is sent, and that by the time you read the email (maybe a day later) someone has reserved the book. There’s nothing I can do about about that. Nonetheless, you should receive fewer of these sorts of emails, because previously even if the book was already reserved, you’d receive an email about it being available, and I think that was probably the most common case, and the cause of most frustration.

I also fixed…

Over the years, I’ve also received complaints from people receiving an email about a book on their wishlist, but when they go to mooch it they get the “sorry, nobody will send to your country” message. People thought BookMooch was sending them emails about books in other countries they couldn’t mooch and were annoyed.

Actually, that wasn’t the case: BM won’t email you about a newly added book when the owner won’t send to your country.

To see that this is case, you can check the “your wishlisted book is available” email, find the owner listed in the email, and you’ll see that the owner listed in the email *is* someone willing to send to your country. However, by the time you go to mooch the book, that copy is gone (someone else mooched it), and all that is left are copies in other countries where none of those book owners will send to you. Hence the confusion and frustration.

At any rate, that’s fixed as well now.

From now on, BM will only send a wishlist email to you if–at the time the email is sent–there is a copy that you can mooch.

  • BM won’t send you an email if the only copy you could mooch has been reserved for someone else,
  • BM won’t send you an email if the only remaining copies are in countries you can’t mooch from.
  • It’s not foolproof: the book might get reserved or mooched *after* BM sends the email to you, but that’s just the nature of email. Still, I think this is an improvement.

Coming soon: a much clearer “Book details page” which shows you exactly which book owners have reserved a book or won’t send to you.

Chromelogo Sm-1
A few of you have switched to the Google Chrome web browser, and reported problems to me (and the volunteer admins) in using BookMooch with that browser.

As of today, I’m pretty sure I’ve fixed the issues with using the Google Chrome Web Browser with BookMooch.

If you still have problems with Chrome and BookMooch, please post a comment to this blog entry, along with a URL to the page that doesn’t work, or any other explanation that might help me recreate it.

I think the changes I made for Chrome will also fix a few small issues there were with the Safari 4.0 beta web browser.

And on a final note, when I was traveling recently in France, when I visited BookMooch from France I couldn’t get past the “choose your language” page that the home page redirects to, if it detects you coming to BM from a non-English speaking country. That was pretty frustrating, and occurred in both Firefox and Safari for me.

For this reason, I’ve disabled this “redirect new users to pick a language” page, and instead the regular home page is displayed (as most people expect) and the language choices are in the bottom right of the home page.

The results of the 2008/2009 survey from Karl Fast‘s university class are now available!

There are four main documents they’ve given me, which are:

  • 12 WAYS > easy ways you can be a better moocher
  • FINAL REPORT > what the survey found
  • RIANNE > “Rianne the recycler” is one composite of a typical user
  • GRETCHEN > “Gretchen the gabber” is another composite of a typical user

Each is available as a beautifully formatted PDF document to download. I also converted each document to HTML, for easier web reading and also so that these documents could get translated into the other languages which BookMooch is used in.

They documents are fascinating, and I found them to be quite insightful. I have to admit that I had low expectations, having done a similar exercise with MBA candidates at UC Berkeley several years ago. I think the reason this group was so successful is because they derived insights from the actual users of the software (you!) and put a huge amount of work, as well as having a serious methodology.

The reports are blunt and not always flattering to BookMooch, which is extremely useful in getting a real world view of how things are going. Many thanks to Karl and his students, and to all of you who participated!

Karl sent me some photos of the students working on the project, which I wanted to share with you.

Bm Survey 2 Bm Survey 5 Bm Survey 6

Bm Survey 4Bm Survey 3 Bm Survey 1

Image #1: Tweaking the survey questions. From left to right: Stephen Gracey,Michele Newton, Jim Maxwell, and Thiago Franco

Image #2: Thiago Franco revises the personas at the whiteboard

Image #3: Jason Richardson and Amelia Campbell analyze data on their laptops

Image #4: A printout of the survey data, including 200 pages of comments

Image #5: Trying to make sense of the survey data. From left to right: Michele Newton, Karl Fast (the professor), and Jim Maxwell

Image #6: Four students planning the research. From left to right: Jason Richardson, Jim Maxwell, Amelia Campbell, and Stephen Gracey

About a year ago, I added the “reservations” feature to BookMooch.

This feature is mostly used when:

1) if you aren’t in the same country as the book owner, and the book owner wants you to “ask first before mooching”, you can reserve the book for a week so that someone else doesn’t mooch the book while you wait to hear back from the book owner

2) if you want to save the book for a specific person (such as with angel mooches) or a friend.

One design decision I had to make was with the emails you receive when a book on your wishlist becomes available.

Specifically, if someone reserves a book on your wishlist:

  • should you still get the email telling you it’s available? (even though it’s reserved and therefore not really available to you)
  • or would you rather not receive the email (ie, only be notified with the book is currently moochable by you).

I’ve made a simple yes/no poll (below) to ask how many people feel one way or another. I’ve received personal emails expressing both opinions, and wanted to gather more opinions before taking any action.

So… click on the question to answer the poll: