Results of 2008 survey

June 3, 2009

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

54 Responses to “Results of 2008 survey”

  1. Coqueline said

    I do agree on the international section.

    I would love to see BookMooch to see things from non-US perspective more. At the moment, it is more of a ‘US or international’ thing. There is no smaller regional options within Bookmooch, for example, to chose to send within a region, or set a lost book limit by own country-region-whole wide world settings. Most Bookmooch users living in small countries such as myself always send to neighbouring countries by default (but may not be to other continent), and doesn’t need to wait 4 months for a book that supposed to arrive over the border only 200km away to be marked as lost. There is no nuances taken into the ‘international mooch’, and I hope it will be in the (nearish) future).

    • Cathy said

      I was really curious to read the profile for “Rianne”, but it looks like the Gretchen profile was accidentally posted there.

    • hassebasse said

      Amen sister. More international options would simplify A LOT!
      – separate by continents (at least)
      – maybe sync with non-US/UK bookdatabases?
      – one feature I would love is to be able to save authors names or titlewords in wishlist, not just specific books.

    • Tria said

      I would too – here in the UK we have different postage rates for international mail to Europe, North America and worldwide (outside the other two continents mentioned). I have one particularly large book that I could afford to send within Europe but definitely not outside my continent, as it’s just too expensive, but I can’t state that except in condition notes, so it gets people’s hopes up and lets them down.

      • tennantfamily said

        Hi Tria, You are not correct about postage in the UK to anywhere else. If you send by surface mail printed paper rate it is the same for anywhere outside the UK and is very reasonable IMO. I know as I have sent out over 100 books a month since I joined and I’m on a low pension. More than half of those go abroad, I’ve just made up a shipment of 21 books for Kosova in 5 packages (because they get heavy losses in transit) and it is under £25, and sent as one pack would be under £20. I have never refused an international mooch to date, because there are people who need books but just can’t afford to send abroad (a struggling student in a country with few bookshops, unreliable post and children to support perhaps?) and my reward is friends all across the world!

  2. Jen A said

    Ooops! The HTML version of the Rianne profile has Gretchen’s description as the main top at the part (though I think the details at the bottom of the page are correct). Just a little copy-paste error, I’m sure, but wanted to let you know!

  3. Tara said

    Thanks for posting this info. It really is nice to see what is going on behind the scenes. I’m loving all of these new blog updates!

  4. jackgoss said

    The description of Rianne seems to be that of Gretchen.

  5. greywarrier(sue an aussie ) said

    hi there, just read the survey report 2008, interesting. the feature i have to agree with the most is living in australia is is hard to get some of the books sent i want due to cost. i not long ago send a book to a new zealander moocher who stated it was hard to get any 1 to send there, and that’s not the first time i heard that. while book mooch angles are handy and those people try there best for you it is sometimes hard to get in contact or just hard to go through the prosess to get an angle.

  6. April said

    In 12 Ways it says:
    “People reported packages ripped open in transit and books being damaged.”
    The US Post Office often opens packages sent by Media Mail, especially in December. It’s usually sliced at the top just to make sure no one’s trying to scam them, and it’s usually descernable from plain bad packaging, but I wanted to make sure that senders aren’t always being blamed.

    • tennantfamily said

      Can I suggest as a side-issue to this: recycled packaging from record, book and video stores? Because of the volume of books we send I ran out of people to cadge jiffybags from so I went into the nearest video-hire store and now have a “contract” 😉 to call in and collect all their cardboard DVD sleeves and assorted jiffy bags every now and again and the match is made in heaven! He doesn’t have to pay to have his packaging removed and recycled and I don’t have to look further than my box for suitable packaging. I just wrap the book in a plastic bag or cleaned cereal packet lining and insert in card sleeve and ducktape it securely. Most books go large letter (UK depth restrictions on packages) due to being held in securely in the card.
      I’ve been green since I was born so it appeals to me!

  7. Dovile said

    Thanks for posting these results. I couldn’t agree more with all their suggestions. If at least some part of them could be implemented, that would be awsome!

    BTW, a while ago, there was a talk on BM forum how to help new members to get better acquainted with BM and keep them from leaving, and one of the suggestions was creating an automated email with helpful tips which would be sent after signing up to BM to new members. I think, the ’12 WAYS’ info is great and perfect for this purpose, as it’s simple, informative and has links to more details, and only minor editing would be needed. Some totally new members simply doesn’t know about BM wiki. Also, this ’12 WAYS’ should be added to the BM page, somewhere where people could find this info easily, maybe at ‘About BookMooch’ section.

    • tennantfamily said

      Here, here! Let’s have 12 (or more) tips sent out to new moochers in their own language. I’m sure volunteer translators could be available if the forums were as easy to use as this is. (My computer won’t connect to a forum, it’s too slow).

  8. Evy MacPhee said

    I got tangled up trying to get to the one question vote. It was a Firefox website evaluator. I never did get out of it.

    NO!!!! I very much want to NEVER, NEVER hear about books available that I cannot mooch. Keep your unavailable books to yourself, please, please, please.

  9. Evy MacPhee said

    I would be outrageously pleased and feel blessed if the Bookmooch forums were: faster, easier to use, and arranged so that conversations were easier to follow.

    I haven’t even tried to use Bookmooch forums for most of the past year. I always go to LibraryThing.

    Let us know when to try the forums again.

  10. Evy MacPhee said

    Furthermore, I have been encouraged to thank more elaborately and send internationally more.

    I really appreciate the comment from Australia about how much the postage costs from there. Goodness!

    I will quit poor mouthing about the USA postage costs.

    I still wish there were some way to get surface mail back in the USA. My branch post office says, “No way.” Sigh!

    I am also going to try Shelfari.

    I love Bookmooch and, today, hauled up to my apartment a large backpackful of books to put up. I sent emails to all my group the day before we met to remind them to bring them.

    My great nephew in Missouri and I are doing a fair job of using up my points. It does make my wishlist look somewhat peculiar for us to share.

    Neither of us mind.

  11. Evy MacPhee said

    I forgot to put in a link to my inventory.


    All the best and happy reading to all.


    Within about a month there should be different books up on my inventory. That backpack full.

  12. Margot said

    Thanks for the survey results. In replying to the new survey, I pointed out that much of the bookmooch development is due to members taking the initiative — the angel network, the bank, the journals, etc. If you were to implement many of the recommendations, I think that would change because John would have to do the work, himself and would be overloaded. I don’t think we need badges, for instance. Everyone can see if you give a little, are an angel, how long you’ve been a member, how active a trader you are, etc. I like it that the site is simple and kind of free-flowing.

    I read a comment on Shelfari, so I went there. After looking around for some minutes, I couldn’t find out what it did, so I signed up for an account, which still didn’t tell me what it does, then I had to fill out some more stuff and, finally, I deleted my account. I still don’t know what it does.

    Librarything sounds like a good idea, but I don’t have time to inventory my entire library (too busy talking about dogs, I guess).

    Finally, the reservation system. Although I occasionally use it, since it’s there, I dislike it intensely. If people want to trade books with their friends, I think they should do it privately. BookMooch should be one, big community.

    For the same reason, I dislike the idea of listing specific books on the forum. The report points out what a problem the forum is for most people, which makes it rather a clique (though no one’s fault; it’s just the system). Announcing that you have updated your inventory is fine, but everyone should have an opportunity to see what is there.

    I guess I am mostly Rianna and just a little Gretchen.

    Again, thank you, John, for all your work and your philosophy on BookMooch.

    • tennantfamily said

      Reservations have their place I believe. I often reserve books for the person/persons who have it wishlisted and email them, or occasionally I reserve for non-USA people who have a book wishlisted if it is readily available there, but not available for international moochers. I may also reserve a book for someone who has contacted me about a book I’ve mooched. I suspoect others do likewise, so I do not resent it if I see a reserved indication by a book I’d like. I contact people who may have it relisted in the future!

  13. ejhahn said

    One of the reasons, Americans are hesitant to ship overseas is what they see as the high cost. Unfortunately, this is a recent development, caused by the USPS dropping surface shipping on International mailings. So most Americans think about what it used to cost and then make a comparison whereas, if it has always been expensive, perhaps one doesn’t mind so much.

    I’ve heard that there is a one price package for International Mail that costs around US$14 and can contain three paperbacks. I have not tried this myself but was told about it by another BM member.

    I am lucky in that I live in Hong Kong but travel to the U.S. three times a year so I mooch domestically on U.S. books and hand carry them back to HK. Hong Kong has very cheap International postal rates so I can afford to ship Internationally from HK on almost all requests.

    I think over time Americans will grow used to the higher rates and be more flexible on overseas mooches. We can be very insular and unknowledgeable about other countries. That’s a shame, actually, but true.

    I do not believe that I, personally, as I saw in a previous post, would pay more than the book cost new to ship it to a moocher nor would I expect someone to do that either. I would rather go out and buy the book, new or used. My personal cut-off is approximately one-half the cover price of the book. More than that seems to me to be an imposition.

    When I’m mooching internationally I try to be sensitive and indicate that if it is too costly to let me know and I’ll cancel the request. I sometimes forget to do this and am embarrassed when the book arrives and I see what it cost the sender. It only recently occurred to me that I could, at least, smooch back some points. I’ll be looking at that option in the future.

    • abc said

      I understand that you wouldn’t want to pay more than the book cost new to ship it to a moocher…
      I just guess it makes more sense to me to compare the shipping cost per point more than taking into account the book’s cost….
      I don’t know how book availability is in Hong Kong but there are many countries around the world were stores have *very few* books in English (and they are way overpriced). I know that the selection where I live is terrible (and since so many books aren’t very interesing, those books don’t rotate very much) so even if I wanted to I’m not able to go out and buy the book… that’s why I’m very grateful for all of the books I’ve received through bookmooch…
      I really hope that I’m not an imposition when I mooch a book, I think that if the books is too heavy to send then the moochee will let me know and I completely understand. If the user is on worldwide or ask first then they are letting me know that they might be willing to send it so it’s ok to just mooch (or ask) and see what happens…..

    • Michael said

      I try to keep an open mind on shipping overseas… but as an American reading the survey results, I can’t help but to think how arrogant the survey response was from the Australian, who implied that we should be willing to pay $20 to send books regularly.

      I also subscribe to the “$2.50 per point” system when deciding to accept international mooches. So if it’s going to cost more than $8 to send a book to you, I probably won’t. Partly, because like most BMers, I am not as rich as Bill Gates, and reading is a hobby, not a profession. Also, because the less I spend to mail the book, the more books I can afford to share.

      ejhahn: yes, the lack of surface mail is both an insult from the USPS and also a very legitimate reason for Americans to limit their activities. We should not be asked or expected to make up for the shortcomings of our postal system. But part of the charm of BM is that we are ENCOURAGED to use the cheapest methods available, such as Media Mail domestically.

    • tennantfamily said

      Cost of postage v. cost of book is only relevant if the book is the same price and the same availability to all. I’ve sent a book that I bought for 1p to Australia, because the member there could not get it. I’ll send books to the rare members in the African continent or some other S. or C. American countries or parts of Asia and Europe where conditions and book-availability are different to those in the UK or US.
      I’ve been refused a book “costs more to ship than buy” from the USA when the book was completely unavailable here in the UK!

  14. Choccy said

    I would to love to being able to upload photos of my books and also to have more people to send internationally.

  15. Mary said

    So, I read it all ( just by the way, but it must be my computer, I can’t download Rianne’s pdf. It stuck at 530kb 😉 ) and it is very interesting.
    I’m not what one could say an active member. I manage to put one book in my library, stille 9 to go to enter the ring but it is something I saw while browsing BookMooch. If most user are using english than english book is to expect. My library will only have french book … reading in english isn’t a problem but what if I’m looking to read something different in french ?
    I’d be please to send oversea ( I’m in France, so oversea is everywhere lol ! )

    I subscrite to BookMooch because it isn’t like any other site of the same sort. In fact, there is other website where you can exchange books but you have to pay per month. Or you have BookCrossing. Did you ever try to do that in Paris ? People keep leaving books in the subway, I’m not sure I’ll chase them :p

    So all of this to say, the study is really interesting and in fact, as always, the problem is to open up things. I’m Canadian, you can’t image how postage is expensive over there ( my mother can’t send me anything other than letters. ) so I know how Americans think. How postage is expensive, how USA is a big country, all and that but come one, isn’t the webmaster English ?? That is nearer to me than USA :p

    • Dovile said

      FYI, there are other free international book-swap sites besides BM, though none of them really compares too BM, but they can be useful to get rid of books that no one here on BM wants to mooch.

      I’m from Europe too and swap my books on these three: – a really nice site with some great books, though is quite different from BM: you can use the points only when your book is received; each book has different points value based on its price and availability, sometimes you can set it yourself; shiping overseas costs/is awarded additional points; the wishlist also works differently. I got only 1 book requested there so far, and no WL emails yet; – I like than one can upload a book’s photo on that site. It doesn’t allow to list books without a valid ISBN though, and you can wishlist up to 10 books only. I got 18 requests there, but a lot people there seem to send to their countries only, so it might be difficult to find books for your WOMB points; – you can list not only books there, but everything else too. No wishlist emails though, unless you pay for a premium account, you have to check it online. I got 7 requests there so far, but couldn’t find anything I really liked, so I usually simply swap TT points for BM points.

      On my bio page, you can find the links to all the above mentioned sites.

  16. Karl Fast said

    As the professor for this class, I want to add that this was a rewarding project for everyone. My students learned a great deal and found it extremely satisfying to work on something that has real world value.

  17. melissasyd said

    I’d really love to know if Karl of any of his students signed up? 🙂

    • Amelia Campbell said

      I became a BookMooch member while working on this project.

      Thanks to John and all the study participants. This project was truly a gratifying experience.

    • Karl Fast said

      I’ve been a bookmooch member since near the beginning. My familiarity with the site is one of several reasons I approached John about the project.

      All students joined the site as part of the research. They listed their own books and mooched from others. And since then, I know some of them have continued to use the site.

  18. Tria said

    I have to say, the proliferation of US members unwilling to send overseas due to cost makes me crazy, because postage is much more expensive in general where I live if one takes into account the conversion rate. I think that people who won’t send internationally shouldn’t really get to mooch internationally either – PaperbackSwap is more fairly tailored for North American domestic moochers, for example.

    Heck, I’m on welfare and I still mail internationally – it’s not THAT expensive, and if it costs less from the US than it does here, which it does, how can people say it costs too much to send from the US, particularly when they are happy enough to mooch from non-American senders who pay just as much or more in some cases.

    I also dislike the reservation system, because although I get wishlist alerts for books added to the system that are on my list, I never get them in time. They take hours to appear in the RSS feed or in my Gmail, and by that time, they’ve almost always already been reserved by someone else.

    • Michael said

      Not fair.

      Most of the American BMers I know make every effort to mooch domestically. For the speed and also the lower point cost.

      But just because something that is expensive here in the US is more outrageously expensive in your country does not mean we are being bad people by not doing it.

      • amberlianne said

        QFT. Also, it’s one thing to send packages internationally once or twice a month, and quite another things to send them once or twice a week. We do the best we can, but I don’t think anyone on here has the funds to mail internationally to the extent and in the quantities you seem to want us to.

      • Tria said

        I never said a damn thing about sending more than once or twice a month. I’m talking about the people who won’t send internationally at all.

  19. ejhahn said

    I don’t share some of the complaints about the wish list.

    I’ve been able to mooch books after a wish list alert. Many times I haven’t but so what? The system is random. There will always be winners and losers with such a system. Some of the wish lists run to 50 or more wishers. What are the odds?

    If I’m really hot for a book, I check it out when I’m on-line and mooch it as soon as it becomes available, if I’m lucky and the stars and planets are correctly aligned.

    I also send an e-mail to the person who listed the book and ask them to let me know if the moocher doesn’t follow through. I actually mooched a wish list book that the previous moocher canceled out on.

    I also check the member’s inventory as it’s likely they might have books by the same author or in the same genre.

    I think of it as a fun game. In the end, I can always buy the book, new or used, if I really want it.

    I am embarrassed by Americans who will not ship internationally. They think it’s too expensive because it was so reasonable in the past. Hopefully they’ll catch up wit the rest of the world.

    • Tria said

      Quite often, even when I’m online when the mooch notices arrive, which I usually am, the book’s already gone.

      I can’t always buy the book, so it makes me wild…

  20. Dovile said

    I agree with ejhahn here: getting WL books is like a game, you can’t win everytime, but when you do, it’s just awsome:). BTW, I don’t think books take hours to appear on RSS, as far as I know, it’s an hour at most, but I’m not really sure. Can anyone correct me if I’m wrong about this?

    And while I can’t buy books I want, as they’re simply not available here, and buying online is too expensive for me, I couldn’t care less if someone who doesn’t send overseas mooches from me: I don’t really know why they can’t send international, and besides, they get only 2 points per book, while I’m getting 3 for sending international, so it actually costs them more (they have to send 2 books domestically or 1 abroad to be able to mooch from me, while I always send 1 book and I get 1.5 book for it). I don’t have active people from my country, so if the ‘my country only’ people coudn’t mooch from me, I’d get half as many mooches as I do now. So mooch on, mooch on:)

    I think ejhahn might be right about US members comparing past shipping prices with the present ones. Also, there are enough books available in the US, so some simply might not feel the need for the extra points. People from countries with much smaller number of BM members or next to none at all either get very little to none domestic mooches and are in constant need of points or must consider sending internationally.

    • Dovile said

      A self-reply:) Just checked BM blog, and this is what it says about RSS:

      ‘RSS feeds are cached on a one minute timeout, so it’ll take up to 60 seconds for a new book to appear in the RSS feed.’

      So it’s really way faster that WL emails.

      • Tria said

        Bizarre that it takes hours for me, then. I have my RSS reader open every minute I’m online, and I still seem to miss 90% of the wishlist books that go up for me.

  21. Dovile said

    I’m not using a RSS reader, I simply click on the RSS icon in my inventory whenever I want to check it, so it might be your RSS readers fault, maybe it’s set to update only every hour or something like that.

  22. Margot said

    For the tips on making best use of BookMooch, I have another suggestion. If you are listing an old book, with no description from Amazon, give a summary yourself. I can’t imagine anyone mooching a book when they have no idea what it is about.

  23. PebblesRox said

    I’m very new to BookMooch, but I like it already. I think you could make it easier to describe the condition of the book if you included the information from the survey in the prompt for the condition description. I just checked the books I just added and none of them have underlining or anything, but I didn’t even think about that when I wrote about the condition. If you had a more exhaustive checklist, maybe that would help people describe the condition of their books more accurately.

  24. PebblesRox said

    The article suggests posting an image of the book cover in your inventory if you can’t find a match. How do I do that?

    • Dovile said

      Right now, you can add a book’s photo to its condition notes. The photo has to be hosted somewhere, preferably where it won’t be removed soon (on Flickr, Photobucket, Amazon, etc.).
      Go to the book’s condition notes, and add this line (replace http:…jpg with your photo’s URL):

      Save it, and when you go back to the book, you’ll see the photo.

  25. morpha said

    I enjoyed reading the survey results, I resemble Rianne in book habits, if not in lifestyle.

    It was an eye opener for me to read that, despite the loss of inexpensive international shipping methods, it is still less expensive to ship books from the US to somewhere like Australia than the reverse. I deeply miss being able to ship books overseas. Formerly, I could send a mass market paperback overseas for less than $3US. Now, it costs as much as $10US to ship the same book. No wonder we Americans are in sticker shock. The extra point BookMooch issues helps some, but not enough. For now, I can afford to ship books only to Canada. For one more gratuitous point, I could afford to ship the occasional small book worldwide. For now, as I only work part time, and my boss has been months late in paying me, I just can’t do it. I only put books in my inventory that do not already have multiple copies available on BookMooch, so I get many mooch requests. More than I can afford; I am far behind on domestic mooches as it is. I do fund mooches by selling books on Amazon and eBay, but sales have dropped severely in the last year, so I just can’t keep up. I try anyway.
    I do understand if someone is unwilling to send me an international mooch if I can’t send a mooch to them. It’s fair to feel that way.
    I therefore resolve to send more international mooches in the future, if my income situation gets any better.
    I have pruned my inventory by weight and don’t even list heavy textbooks at all any more. I just can’t afford to send them for a single mooch point.
    Forgive me if I sound whiny. BookMooch has become my one luxury. I am a voracious reader, consuming nearly one book a day. I can’t Mooch enough to keep up with my reading addiction.
    Thanks to the surveyors and to John for all your hard work!

    • June/France said

      If I have any books you fancy I can either send you points or send for no points, just let me know.I have books galore and need to get them moved. At the moment it’s quite cheap to send anywhere in the world except France. Unbelieveable but true.

  26. Margot said

    Morpha, you get *two* extra points for an international mooch — one from the moocher and one from the system — for a total of 3. And I receive mass market paperbacks from the States (to France) for as little as $4.58. Having said that, I never resent people who won’t send internationally. It’s a pain, but in France we still have book rate (except within the country), so I understand.

    • June/France said

      Margo, why don’t all books from U.S. cost so little? The ones I get are $8-10 for PB, no wonder they don’t like sending.

  27. Rosemarie (Freecyclor) said

    The report was just brilliant! I would love a link to LT in BookMooch, also some YouTube BM user stories.

    I think some of the unwillingness of US users to send abroad is discomfort/unfamiliarity with the very simple short green Customs Form. A link to a YouTube video of how to ship internationally would be very helpful. It could also discuss briefly first class vs. international priority rates.

    The BM Wiki gets very in-depth on various issues, but is not the easiest reference to use; whereas a YouTube video with the same information could be. (Hint – actually seeing someone in another country enjoying receiving books from a US user might shake us out of our insularity a bit.) It would also enhance the sense of community that is so important here.

    Non US users; if you can possibly find a second mooch from a US user’s inventory, it may make priority mail a viable option. Last week, I spent US $18 to send a single HB book abroad; then learned that priority mail would have saved me money, and the moocher would receive his book faster 8-(

    Also, if someone has spent a bundle to send a book to you, leaving a brief note with your feedback is very heartwarming and encouraging.

    • June said

      Does anyone in the U.S. ever look into the postal charges?? You can check on site. I’ve had books sent media mail and letter and priority, some for as little as $4-5. The PO won’t tell you if they can get you to spend more money. I had the same problem in France, now I know better and I can send anywhere cheap, except France!!

  28. Terri said

    I personally think it’s pretty cool that anyone will send any book to me for free..

    I can barely afford to send a book from Florida to Maine, much less to another country. I generally don’t mooch from people in other countries because I can’t afford to send to them. However, if they offer to send the book internationally then I assume they are ok with this.

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