Bookshelves, DVD and CD racks overflow while the demand for new titles continues. Sound familiar? It's great to have a household filled with voracious readers, movie fans and music lovers, unless the constant need for new books, DVDs and music stretches the budget. The solution is to use a swap site where unwanted items can be traded for something on the must-have list.

PaperBackSwap is a mighty multi-tasking website that lets users swap paperbacks and more. Its sister sites (SwapaCD and SwapaDVD) offer the same services.

What’s the benefit? While it is possible to find online sources for discount books, DVDs and CDs, this swap site allows users to find titles they want for free while also clearing out their shelves of titles they no longer need.

About PaperBackSwap

The site describes itself as a book club, and there are more than 4 million titles available. A bar that runs across the top of the site's home page shows exactly how much members have saved–down to the penny–and it is updated 24/7. The recent tally was over $33 million. That tally demonstrates the bottom line: saving money through trading rather than buying.

Membership is free, and after joining, members can swap textbooks, hardbacks and audio books along with paperbacks.

How the book swap works

Sign up, then list the titles of all books you want to make available to swap. In exchange, new members get two free book exchange credits to use on the site. It takes one book credit to "purchase" one book.

Members can browse titles by searching by genre, title or author, or by viewing the most recent titles listed. To "purchase" a book using credits, click on the "Order This Book" button. PaperBackSwap sends an email to a member when one of their books has been requested.

After accepting the book request, the sender packages the book by printing out the label provided by PaperBackSwap and mails it to the person who requested it. The sender always pays postage. Packages are sent by media mail and generally cost between $2 and $2.50.

The sender receives a book credit each time someone receives one of their books in the mail.

Book swap guidelines

Books must be in good condition. Books that are missing their front covers are not accepted. Books aren't expected to be in like-new condition, but in general members should ask themselves if their books are in good enough condition to be purchased. If you would be willing to buy the book yourself, it is in good enough condition to list on the site.

Other book condition requirements:

  • No water-damaged pages
  • Pages can't be torn
  • No writing or highlighting on the pages of the books (unless they are textbooks or workbooks)
  • Because the books are used, it is okay if the pages have yellowed slightly
  • The book's binding cannot be broken
  • Former library books can be listed on the site, but the sender must verify the book has been removed from the library's circulation

How the CD swap works

SwapaCD is similar to PaperBackSwap. The difference is that one CD credit is earned for each CD that is sent to another member based on a request. In addition, members must pay $0.49 for each CD. The money is deducted from the member's SwapaCD account that is established at signup.

The sender pays for postage and uses the shipping label that is provided by SwapaCD. Postage is usually less than $1 for each CD sent in the mail.

CDs must be in good condition and must be original copies, not burned discs.

How to swap DVDs

SwapaDVD allows members to receive one DVD in exchange for one DVD credit. A credit is earned each time a DVD is sent to another swap member. After signing up and listing 10 DVD titles that are available to send to others, new members receive one swap credit to get started. Credits needed to "purchase" a DVD vary depending on the type of DVD, but many can be found for one credit.

When one of your DVDs is requested by another member, print out the mailing label that is emailed from SwapaDVD and pay for the postage to send that DVD to the other swap member. The cost to mail each DVD is between $2 and $2.50.

DVDs must be original and in good, playable condition.

Member testimonials are listed on all three sites to help new users learn what to expect. There are also live chats available for all three sites in order to get quick answers to any questions.

How to Swap Books, CDs and DVDs