SMS Text notifications for BookMooch

November 27, 2009

I’ve long thought about having Text notifications (eg: mobile phone “SMS” messages) from BookMooch when a book on your wishlist becomes available. That would help people who aren’t at their computer all the time, be notified right away. The SMS message could even say:

“Your book ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco is now available on BookMooch from ‘angey (NY, USA)’.

Would you like me to reserve the book for 24h for you? Text YES back if you do”

I could also add features to tell BookMooch to do things via SMS, so you could send a text to bookmooch that said:

“bm wishlist 0812532597”

which would tell bookmooch to add the book that has that ISBN number, to your wishlist.

Or if you sent to BookMooch:

“bm 0812532597”

you’d get an SMS message saying:

“Good news, the book ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco (0812532597) is currently available on BookMooch from ‘angey (NY, USA)’.

Would you like me to reserve the book for 24h for you? Text YES back if you do”


“Sorry, the book ‘The Name of the Rose’ by Umberto Eco (0812532597) is not available on BookMooch at the moment.

Would you like me to add it to your wishlist? Text YES back if you do”

Would this be a feature you would get excited about?

Now, the problem. SMSs cost about $0.05 each to send. While that may not sound like much, there are over 3000 books mooched per day. If there were 3000 notifications per day, that works out to $4500 per month in SMS send fees.

Since BookMooch doesn’t charge for its use, that leaves me with a few options:

1) enable the SMS feature for everyone, but do a fundraising campaign and try to get more people to “give a little” each month

2) enable the SMS feature in a limited way for everyone (perhaps 3 notifications per month) and fully enable it for people who “give a little”

3) only enable the SMS features for people who “give a little”

I’ve made a survey to gather people’s opinions about this, please tell me what you think!


29 Responses to “SMS Text notifications for BookMooch”

  1. justelise said

    I don’t understand why it would cost anything to send SMS if you could send the messages to the SMS email addresses:

  2. This is a good point, I could use email-to-SMS gateways. The advantages of that approach are:

    1) it’s free for BookMooch to send (SMS cost is borne by recipient)

    2) it works globally

    3) very easy for me to implement


    1) you can’t reply to the SMS to tell BM what to do. However, a URL in the SMS could indicate the desire action (but that would only work with phones that has web access).

    2) Not every mobile phone service has an email-to-sms gateway

    3) I could still receive SMS messages at BookMooch (receiving is free) to receive commands, but you would have to send your command to a different phone number than the number you receive your sms on.

    I found a global list of SMS gateways at:


    • Michael said

      Replies shouldn’t be as big a problem as you think… because most phones I’ve dealt with, when you reply, also sends the FROM address in the gateway format also. So you could easily parse the cell number from it.

      • Michael said

        Or send the email from a coded email address, so when the user replies, they are identified. (i.e. and keep a small database of which address maps to which request.
        Although I’m sure one exists, I have yet to see a cell phone in the US that won’t let you reply to such a message.

  3. Alicia said

    It may be a good idea for some folks. I personally wouldn’t use it because I use my wishlist to keep an eye on journals.

    “Would this be a feature you would get excited about?”

    No, but new forums would be.

    Thanks, John.

  4. mallory said

    I don’t think it is fair to those who don’t have the extra money to pay. By enabling this feature we are allowing those with extra cash to get their choice books first, which in a way defeats the whole point of this system.

  5. Jacquie said

    Sorry, this doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile use of development time. It would be a great technical feature, but I’d rather see development effort going towards things more users would like. Let’s have a poll. I personally would like a “my region” tier added to BM; I’d like the “recently added” feature to work fully; it would be nice to improve the presentation of the wishlist so we can see what’s actually moochable… We can’t all get to our e-mails 24 hours a day, so books might not be moochable, but we all have to live with that. It’s frustrating enough for a book on your wishlist to rarely appear, but more so when it’s not available because it can’t be sent to your country, so an SMS feature would fill up messaging mailboxes. And those of us who can’t get to e-mails all day don’t necessarily spend the time plugged into our SMS inboxes either!

  6. Jacquie said

    Having quickly looked through the gateway information, it would appear that implementing such a system would be relatively easy for US numbers and potentially a major headache for international suibscribers. This would leave us with a two-tier BM system where US users have the feature and international users don’t. Would the cost of sending international SMS really be worth it? Who would pay? If I were to have to pay to receive a BM SMS about a book that I couldn’t then mooch or that someone didn’t want to send to Europe, I’d probably cancel the feed.

  7. Kevan said

    I’d rather see a fundamentally fairer system of distribution – the current “quickest click gets the book” is biased towards a certain kind of Internet user, and expanding it to “quickest click or US/UK-only (?) text message gets the book” doesn’t feel like much of a solution.

    I think I’d be happier with some kind of weighted lottery system; a new book would be automatically reserved for a random wishlister for 24 hours (weighting against anyone who’s been selected for other books recently, according to how many people they were up against), then thrown out to everyone if they don’t claim it. It’s probably a bit gameable, but no more gameable than the current system (where it would presumably be trivial to write a script that parsed incoming email and claimed all books immediately).

    • Ben said

      I agree. My biggest wish for BookMooch is a fairer system of wishlisting. The closer it comes to the first come first served the better.

      • Emily said

        I wonder if it would be possible for bookmooch to stamp a time/date on every wishlist book – then when the book became available, a notification could first go to the person who wishlisted that book first. Then if he didn’t take it in 24 hours, it could go out to the next ten date/time stamps, etc. Maybe that is impossible to actually do, but it would be kind of neat…that way if something had been on your wishlist FOREVER, you’d have more chance of getting what you wanted when it became available. What do others think?

  8. Margot said

    What Jacquie said. I’d like to be able to search my entire Mooch history or entire Sent history, not just the few records on the page in front of me.

  9. Michael said

    I should clarify that I like this idea mostly for the wishlisting option… I often walk around a book store, and take pictures with my cell of books I want to mooch or get from a library later. So I would love to be able to send a text to BM to add to wishlist. This is the easiest part to adopt, and can be done fairly, without implementing the mooching/reservation stuff. Let everyone send a text message or email to an address, such as (username) with the ISBN, and it will be added to the wishlist. No need to worry about cell systems or fairness. And no cost to BM, since it will be in email. I would, of course, like the other feature, but it’s not as urgent since I haven’t been offered a book to mooch from my wishlist in nearly 6 months.

  10. protospork said

    It seems to me that adding a mooch function via SMS would just escalate the race from “who (among wishlisters) can get the email, load the site, and shoot off a request first” to “who can type the fastest into their phone”. I don’t really see the need for that, but if I’m in the minority, *shrug*.

    Mind you I do think being able to wishlist books via SMS would be handy.

    (sorry for the double post, if my previous one ever does appear)

    • Michelle said

      I totally agree. It will also be significantly harder for anyone without SMS to get a WL book. Even harder than it already is.

  11. Elie said

    What about an option for an SMS notification for each book in our wishlist. I know there’s a few books I have listed that I’d mooch the very moment they became available, but others I would generally wait a few hours to a day to see if someone wants it more than I do.

  12. Michelle said

    John, I posted a reply and don’t see it now…did you delete it? It was at 14 replies and when I reloaded it said 13 replies and mine was missing.

  13. Sarah said

    I don’t like the “reserve” question. I don’t have SMS, why should someone who does have a better shot at getting a book than I do. They could be alerted by SMS but still would have to go to their computer like the rest of us to reserve the book.

  14. Candice said

    Before I was able to read e-mail with my phone, I had a filter set up in Gmail that automatically forwarded BookMooch notifications to my phone’s e-mail address (arrives as SMS). I don’t know about other providers, but with T-mobile, you can do the same thing using [your phone number]

  15. bernadetteinoz said

    I don’t really want to be a whinger but I kind of agree that this would end up making bookmooch even more of a US centric site than it already is. Most books are listed on BM during US ‘waking’ hours which makes it difficult for me (in Australia) to ever get my hands on a remotely popular book – so this feature would just make it even less likely that something on my wishlist would still be available when I wake up. However I guess that’s really my problem and would just mean I would use BM less – in reality I am using it less and less already because I’ve send loads of books to the US and Europe and am finding fewer and fewer people willing to do the same in return – so I have a hundred odd points and nothing to mooch – perhaps the system shouldn’t try to be international

  16. Tasha said

    I may be in the minority but i don’t have a cell phone so its of no use to me. It’ll also be unfair to those of us who watch our wishlists in our spare time. Of course i haven’t been able to catch a book recently at all. Most of them end up reserved for someone before i can even get to them. Annoying to say the least.

    I think more time should be put into getting a new forum, i cant even access the official one! I’m missing out on things i would love to participate in because of the massive lag issue it has. I love bookmooch but the lack of a working forum is frustrating.

  17. Sophie said

    I’m not keen on the idea, John. It’s too easy for BM to slide into having two types of members – those with money (who t/fore get the SMS texted to them, and consequently, get first bite at the cherry) and those without (don’t have a mobile phone, aren’t text literate, etc). I take yr point that a general fundraising campaign may alleviate this, but I’m really not sure it’s worth it in the long run. It’s a bit of a slippery slope and essentially, if it’s not broken, why fix it?

  18. Jacob Cord said

    I like the SMS/gateway idea (and was forwarding BookMooch emails to my phone as SMS ANYWAY), the only issue was the size of the email: Each message I got counted as 3 text messages, and a busy couple of days went through my allotment of text messages for the month. I have since upped my limit for other reasons, but a “lighter” SMS option would be nice.

  19. Jeff and Angela said

    Im all for the SMS/Gateway I mean most everyone has a cell phone its just getting the txt fee’s and most companies offer unlimited txts for around 20 a month. I do like the reserve feature that will reserve the book for 24 hours, I wish that 24 hours was the max reserve for ALL reserve features. Hate it when something on our wishlist is reserved for someone else for months at a time. If its a book that your wanting that badly you’ll get on within 24 hours to mooch.

  20. C J Star said

    Thank you for always looking for ways to build BookMooch for an even larger audience. After looking at the various comments, it appears that the audience you want to satisfy, in this case, is so phone/computer literate, that they have already adjusted their equipment to suit the job themselves.
    I have a TracPhone that is not an umbilical. It stays off, in my purse, till a pressing need comes.
    I’d like to see the reserve be 24 hours, the months long thing is a bummer. Thanks again. CJ

  21. Gina said

    I would love it. I only check bookmooch once a day (before I leave for work) but I don’t have a lot of money and my cell phone is a pre-paid. That makes it difficult to respond even with a url link in the message. I miss a lot of wishlist items. I check in the morning and mail out that same day. If I mail from work the books go out faster because we have a pick up around 10am and it goes directly to my regional sorting center so I am able to send them faster.

  22. zzzkatzzzz said

    hey John, i agree with alot of the posts here–while this would be a great feature it would make it very unfair to everyone. id rather you made some tweaks to BM such as the following:

    1. if we mooch a book weve already mooched we get a notification asking “do we really want to remooch this same book?” with a link added to take us to the already mooched book info.
    2. be able to search to see if weve already mooched a book.
    3. be able to search to see if weve already given a book away. this would be helpfulful if we cant find a book in our house.)
    4. instead of having to move/delete books from our lists one at a time, we could click a box next to each book & then click one button at top or bottom of page to move them or delete to execute.
    5. split up the given/mooch list so they each have their own pages. currently we have to go thru the mooched list to get to the given list. (im not entirely sure this is still true & BM is down now & i cant check it out.)
    thanks for everything John…you continue to do a great job making this my “go to” book site!


  23. Jill said

    This is not really related to this topic but…

    I would love to see a TBR (To Be Read) list on BM. Another swap site has this and I love it because if a book in the TBR list is on someone else’s wish list a big red ‘W’ appears out beside it so I know what to read first, second, etc. to get books back out there in circulation quickly that are in demand.


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