Website Review: Swaptree – An Online Book Swap Meet

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to try out a new website still in beta called Swaptree. The idea of Swaptree is to build a community of people who are interested in trading items — books, CDs, DVDs, and video games — amongst each other. While the website is still in its infancy, and not yet open to the general public, the concept is amazing and many of my old books have found new homes in exchange for fresh titles I’ve been wanting to read.

Here’s how it works. Once you create a free account and login, your first task is to list all of the items you have to trade. Since I don’t really collect video games, DVDs, or CDs, I just went straight to my bookshelf and pulled all of the books off that I’ve already read and am not interested in saving. I found 25-or-so books, and proceeded to enter in their ISBNs into Swaptree’s database as “have” items, or ones I am willing to trade. Then I went through my Amazon wishlist (where I keep track of the books on my “to-read” list) and entered these into Swaptree’s “want” database.

Want to beta test Swaptree? Find out how after the review….

This is when Swaptree’s magic begins to work, as it goes through my “have” list and my “want” list, and pairs me up with other Swaptree folks who have a book I want, and vice versa. For instance, if I’ve listed Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything as an item I have to trade, and there is someone who wants that book and has something on my “want” list, Swaptree notifies each party and initiates the trade. If both parties accept the trade, the system gives each member their respective mailing address and completes the trade. The only thing left to do is package the book and ship it off.

Swaptree offers the ability to print off media-rated shipping labels so that you never have to visit the post office. Once a trade is completed, the system gives you the option of either printing off a label with the destination and return address on it and all the necessary postage costs, or using your own label.

Everything you list on Swaptree is offered as a one-for-one trade, making it a true trader’s market. You won’t run into anyone offering something you want for trade with $5 added on top — everything is one-for-one; DVD for a book, video game for a CD, book for book. One-for-one. This keeps would-be entrepreneurs looking to make a quick buck out of the system, and instead fills the community with like-minded readers just looking to give their books a new home.

Members rate their trade experiences with an eBay-like rating system, so if someone snubs you or waits three months before sending a book, you can mark their account warning future traders.

Best of all: everything is free. Swaptree doesn’t charge you for making a trade; the only thing you’re ever charged for is if you choose to print off a shipping label from the website. I can’t tell if Swaptree marks up shipping when you use their label — if they do, it’s not much — but the convenience of not having to go to the post office is well worth it for me. If you chose to go to the post office and get the best shipping rate possible, Swaptree doesn’t charge a dime.

Swaptree is in private beta and is only accessible by invitation. However, they’ve graciously given me 20 invitations to give away to Gadling readers, so if you’re interested in trying the service out before anyone else, just leave a comment below and I’ll send you one, first come first serve. Sorry, but I’m all out of invites! Visit and enter your email address to be put on a waiting list.