My wife and kids read at least twice as many books as I do per year, which makes our collective used book generation pretty significant. A few months ago I signed up for the Bookmooch service to give our used books away. I was surprised at how fast books where being mooched (requested) from my list. The first one was within an hour of putting the books into my inventory. This is cool. I can’t bring myself to toss books in the garbage, so they just stack up in my office or in boxes in the garage waiting for the next garage sale where I might get a 25 cents for each one.

Bookmooch certainly sounds like a better way. Give a book away you don’t want, get one you do. There are a ton of posts and videos on how BookMooch works on Technorati (link leads to search results). If you aren’t familiar with Bookmooch this is a good place to get all the details on how to use it.

Now that books had been requested I had to package them up and send them. Since I am paying for this I want it to be as cheap as possible. I found the best way to package them is to use file folders which are about 8 cents each. Wrap the book like a present using the file folder as wrapping paper and write the address on it. Using media mail rates I send books for $2.47. The total cost to give a book away is $2.55. An envelope is about a $1.50 which will drive your total cost to $3.97.

The following week while changing flights in Denver Airport, I saw a book on the shelf of a bookstore that I wanted to read. I took out my Blackberry, logged into Bookmooch, search for and requested the book. About a week later the book showed up. I really like this. Great, now I can get free books when I see them instead of shelling out 10 to 20 bucks for a new one.

About a week later the book arrived at my office. Bob (my officemate) was curious about what I was doing. His response to my enthusiastic explanation to getting a free book was “Hey, wouldn’t you be better off selling your books at the local used book store?”.

That made me think. Is paying $2.58 to give books away a good deal? Is selling it on Amazon better? Would selling it at the local used book store be a better deal? I can get money for my used books on Amazon and at the local used book store, which certainly sounds better than paying to give my book away, but is it?

It is time for an experiment. Over the next couple of weeks I will explore “The Economics of Used Books”. Check back for the results.

Posted from Santa Cruz, CA