I have been indulging lately in some guilty reading. In fact, my daughter and I have both been somewhat obsessive about our page-turners. We’ve been burning through mysteries (in my case) and cat-based epics (in hers) so fast neither of us would have money left over for anything else if we were paying cash for them.

Fortunately I’ve been able to supply her 4-book-a-week habit at the library. I have long shunned the library because I just don’t have the time to get there during the day and I tend to forget to return the books. But I discovered that if I use the library’s online catalog in combination with the excellent search engine at Amazon.com, I do pretty well. I hit “Request” at the library and breeze in and pick up a replacement stack of books while I’m running a zillion errands or on my way home from work. This works well for my daughter’s books but apparently the books I want are too popular. My local library never has them. They tell me I can request them – this has happened a dozen times – but the wait is over four weeks.

Fortunately for my book addiction, I’ve been trying out Booksfree.com for the past few weeks. It works almost exactly like Netflix.com or BookSwim.com. I go online and toss a bunch of books I want to read into my queue. And Booksfree.com ships me two books at time. (This is on the $13.99-a-month plan.) When I’m done with one, I drop it in the prepaid envelope that came with it, and drop that in the mail.

I’ve covered BookSwim.com here before and this service is very similar. But there are a couple of small differences:

  • Booksfree.com has so far sent me only mass market paperbacks. BookSwim.com sent predominantly trade paper or hardcover books.
  • Booksfree.com sends a return envelope with each book (on the plan I have). So when I’m done with it, I drop it in the envelope and drop that envelope in the mail. I read the other book while that one travels back to Booksfree.com. Bookswim.com asked me to ship two books at once. So in order to keep a book while those two were en route, I had to move up to the more expensive 3-books-out-at-a-time plan. That made it slightly harder to manage the return process, too, and this led me to hold onto books I didn’t want for too long. (Note: BookSwim.com rents text books. So if you have a college student, check it out.)
  • This is subjective – because I’m in reading addict mode – but Booksfree.com feels slow. It recently took five days for a book I’d read to get back to Booksfree.com and another four days for the replacement book to get to me. That means I tend to finish my remaining book and am left tossing through my shelves for something to read while I wait.

On the whole, though, I’m loving Booksfree.com. I try books I’d never drop $10 – or even $5 – on just to see if they are any good. I can poke around my book queue in the middle of the night when I’m thinking about what to read next — rather than having to find browsing time at the library. And the books just keep on coming – no matter how busy my days are. I’ve been reading two books every ten days on this plan. And, even though they are cheap mass-market paperbacks, that would cost considerably more than $14 a month if I ordered them from Amazon.com (which is what I tend to do when I’m busy.) And when my daughter can’t get the book she needs in the library, I can toss one for her into the queue, too, since Booksfree.com has a sizeable selection of young-adult fiction.

One thought on “Books by Mail”

  1. This is a pretty cool idea- I have been with Netflix since 1999 and love them. Another option for you may be one of the great book swapping sites- I love PaperbackSwap.com, FrugalReader.com and TitleTrader.com. Costs nothing to join, you only pay when you send a book to another member (and even with the postage increases, media mail is still a great cheap way to go!) and the ones you get for yourself are free. I always have something to read!

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