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9 Tips to Find Frugal Used Books with PaperBack Swap

Find the BEST used books deals on Paperback Swap with these genius tips!

Guest post from Crystal of Serving Joyfully

One of my favorite ways to acquire books is through PaperBack Swap. Like the name suggests, it’s a site for trading books. You give away a book you don’t need and pay about $2.50 (the cost of postage) for a new-to-you one.

Since postage alone on sites like is $3.99, you can see that $2.50 for a needed book is a great deal! But, as a former couponer and current deal-seeker (and as a homeschooling mom in need of lots of books!), I wanted to do better.

I’ve been diligently searching this summer, and was able to get a bunch of great books for an average of $0.40 each! And that includes Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, which I intended to purchase from Amazon for around $20!

If you’d love to get your hands on some frugal used books, here are some tips to get the most out of PaperBack Swap:

1. Sign up!

Going for the obvious here. When you first sign up for PaperBack Swap and list 10 books to your shelf, you’ll get 2 free credits right away.

2. Refer your friends.

After you’ve signed up, be sure to spread the word. If a friend uses your referral link and becomes an active member, you get a free credit.

(Full disclosure: That’s my referral link above. Crystal gave me permission to use it in this post. If you’d rather not sign up through my link, you can go directly to

3. List great books.

More high-quality books equals more requests, and more requests equals more credits for you.

4. Purchase credits at a discount.

Sometimes I give away books we no longer need and sometimes I’m a tiny bit of a book hoarder. In this case, credits can be purchased directly from PBS for $3.79-$3.95. However, PBS also allows members to sell up to 50 credits per month, so you can purchase credits from other members, usually for a discounted rate.

Please note — this is done at your own risk. You’ll want to make sure that you are dealing with someone who has a strong reputation on the site. I’ve done this in the past to purchase credits for as low as $2 each.

5. Become a Boxer.

Since the only monetary cost associated with the site is your shipping, reducing the cost of shipping per book reduces your overall cost. One way to do this is to trade boxes of books with other members rather than single books. There is a monthly fee for this service, but the benefits can outweigh the cost if you’re looking to trade a large amount of books.

6. Network.

In the community area, there is a forum called the Book Bazaar. In that forum, members frequently request or offer “deals,” especially if you are looking to make a bulk (multi-credit) purchase.

Through this, I was able to find people willing to offer some great deals, including 25 books for 5 credits. You can also take note of, and friend, those members who tend to have books in the genres you’re interested in, and build relationships with them for future deals.

7. Ask.

When you request a book, PBS will give you the option to request more from the same member. If there are other books that interest you, ask if the member would be willing to make a deal. Even a member who doesn’t have a running deal is usually willing to throw in an extra book or two if you are requesting several.

8. Offer a Deal Yourself.

When I purchased 25 books for 5 credits, the sender spent $5.77 for shipping, but she got 5 credits. If she had sent out 5 books separately, those same 5 credits would have cost her around $12.50 in shipping.

If you have the extra books, this is a great option to get the most out of shipping and bless another member at the same time. You can do this on the forums, or right from your bookshelf.

9. Be Patient.

Patience is a virtue here. If you are able to be patient, sometimes you can wait for a deal to come available and save yourself some money. Similarly, if a book you want isn’t currently available, you can add it to your wishlist and wait for it to come available rather than purchasing it somewhere else.

It may not come available, but it’s worth waiting a while to find out. This is exactly how I was able to acquire the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons book for such a great deal. Another member saw it on my wishlist, and offered to make it a part of a bigger deal.

Are you a member of PaperBack Swap? What has been your experience with it?

Crystal Brothers is a daughter of the one, true King, wife to a forest ranger, and full-time mommy to two rambunctious little boys. She blogs at Serving Joyfully — a blog dedicated to encouraging and equipping women to serve God and their families.

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  • Victoria says:

    I have been a member of Paper Back Swap for years and had no idea that you could do these sorts of deals. Thanks for the tips. My favorite thing to do is to swap paper backs for audio books. I can find a lot of second hand inexpensive paper back books at yard sales and thrift stores but audio books are harder to find and my children love them. We have gone through our libraries supply more than once so when I can snag one from Paper Back Swap that they have not heard they love it. An audio book costs 2 credits but considering that they are much more money to purchase new or second hand I think it is a great trade.

  • ginger p says:

    I use PBS religiously & LOOOOOOOOVE it! I’ve done all the deal scenerios above & have only encounter one other “snooty swapper”. I would highly encourage anyone who has a love of books (or definitely homeschools, needs books, etc) to try it out!

    My member name is SugDreamer if anyone wants to join & friend me or check out my bookshelf!

  • Kristina says:

    I’ve been a member of PBS for years! It’s a wonderful site to trade books and discover new authors without alot of worry. My husband no longer grimaces at my bookshelf; used books for postage means no longer paying full price.I’ve traded over a hundred books and have only had 1 problem due to wet weather. PBS has a wonderful system in place and seems to cover all the bases when it comes to online book swapping. I must add that I’m a military spouse, fantastic bonus for me because the big book stores aren’t available and PBS allows me to statisfy my need to read!

  • Renee says:

    I’ve used PBS to get some really nice hardback copies of classic books I want to keep for our collection. I put many different versions of the book on my wishlist, then wait (and wait) for my turn to come up with one of them. I got the Lord of the Rings books all bound in 1 hardback this way after just a year on my wishlist. The more obscure the version, the more likely you are to be the first on the waiting list!

    Our library has a book sale table and I stock up on popular paperbacks when they have their bag sale. Cheap PBS credits!

  • I’m going to have to try this site! I recently wrote on my blog about how I was paring down our book collection and selling some of the books to 2nd & Charles, but that turned out to be a waste of time. Book swapping is the way to go! Or, of course, the library. =) If we don’t have a pile of new books to read from the library, we go crazy.

  • Guest says:

    Wow – I had no idea all of these options existed. I am a happy and devoted Paperbackswap user and am so pleased by all the money I’ve saved. The Wish List is a favorite feature of mine. I’ve also bought a few inexpensive books at the local used book store (aligned to the public library) that I ultimately used on paperbackswap to “purchase” books I wanted more.

    Thanks for your great post!

  • Amanda says:

    I’ve been using PBS for years as well, and love it! I also signed up for the sister sites – swapadvd and swapacd. You can swap credits between the sister sites. It’s been great and I feel like I’m giving my no longer needed books to people who will actually read them. If you send out more books than you want to request (decluttering!), you can donate credits to schools needing books for their libraries (usually lower income or those recovering from a natural disaster).

    @Kristina My husband also has stopped teasing me so much about my book collection! With being able to swap credits between the sites, he gets to request more movies if I send out more books!

  • Dee Wolters says:

    I have been using paperback swap for several years, heard about it right here, thanks! I have traded over 100 books, and just love it. I can get “free” books to read for my enjoyment- mostly Christian Historical Fiction, and don’t have to pay book store prices. And, I have even been able to get several of my daughters’ college books!!! Talk about saving $!!!!! With 3 girls in college, every little bit helps. And I really enjoy passing on my books to someone I know will really enjoy them. Great web site and love using it.

  • Theresa says:

    I love paperbackswap!! I’ve been a member since 2007. I especially love the Wish List feature. It will alert you when a book you want is available if it’s not already in the system. You might have to wait a bit, but it’s worth it if it’s a book you want that you don’t want to pay for.

  • I’ve gotten a few really nice hardcover book through PBS. I especially like their wishlist feature.

  • Jennifer Diliberto says:

    Excellent idea! I have a pile of my daughter’s old books that she doesn’t want anymore sitting in my hallway waiting for me to post 🙂 I was originally going to donate, but this is such a better idea! We just started the Magic Tree House series so I’m sure she will be excited when more books start coming in the mail

  • Christy C. says:

    I’m curious as to what you mean by former couponer? I am a full-time work outside the home mom and the time involved in clipping, organizing and searching for the best deals with the coupons is overwhelming at times. I still try my best though. 🙂

  • christina says:

    I just discovered this site about 3 or 4 months ago and I love it. I recently decided I needed to start reading more, and I’m so glad I found this site, because now I have a nice little stack of to-read books. I was getting my books from the library but now I don’t have to worry about reading it before the due date and I don’t have to wait on a list if something I want is checked out. There is also a local bookstore that I sometimes go to but they hardly give you anything for books and with pbs you just get an even trade. I have gotten at least 10 books so far and I also won a book in one of their giveaways. It’s so exciting getting books in the mail and some of the ones I received looked almost brand new. There is a waiting list for more popular books but I don’t really mind because there’s so many books I want to read anyway so I don’t mind waiting.

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