In Search of a Non-Profit Exchange Network: Everything Old Could Be New Again

Buzz Bruggeman has lots of ideas, all of them offered with great enthusiasm, and some of them really rather good. The other day, he pinged me about a new post and it really is a good idea. A good idea that is the seed of a great idea.

In essence, Buzz wants to see the Shelfari book review site become a book exchange between individuals who read and value books and libraries that have limited budgets to acquire new texts. Libraries submit a wish list, and as readers complete a book, they review it on Shelfari, then send it on to the wanting library. To quote Buzz:

A friend of mine once told me that having a book shelf full books you had read was like having a six pack of empty wine bottles.

The book exchange idea recycles the “empties,” making a private resource a public one and, one can hope, encouraging literacy and other good things.

Certainly the technology to support such a book exchange is readily available. The platform, for example, supports trading of CDs by matching the recordings people want with the libraries that other people have. Not to underestimate LaLa’s algorithm, but how hard could it be to put that platform or one like it into a public site to support not just Buzz’s library idea (the good one), but also a need-matching concept (the great idea)? Why just stop at putting books in the hands of those who can’t afford or prefer not to buy them and thus rely on lending libraries. Why not match any gently used or excess goods with people and organizations that have a burning need for them.

Buzz’s idea works because the Shelfari site, in his example, creates the link between the have and the want, and perhaps that’s fundamental to making an exchange network function smoothly. But certainly there are other sites and organizations that could serve as a backbone for a trading network that re-distributes goods from those who no longer want or need them to those who do. Such a site gives new life to goods that have served their purpose yet have diminishing value to the original owner but high potential value to someone in need.

If this exchange network exists, I’d love to know about it. If it doesn’t, I’d love to see a few smart business brains figure out how to make it work.



  1. Chris:

    What you want, sounds a lot like what we built at

    On Swaptree, users can trade the books, cds, dvds, and video games they are finished with, for the ones they want, with other users for FREE.

    Simply list the items that you have to trade and the items that you want and Swaptree’s two and three-way trade algorithms instantly shows you all of the items you can receive in trade. Its pretty cool and kind of amazing.

    Swaptree even simplifies the mailing process, by providing you with a perfect postage label that can be printed right from your computer, so you never have to go to the post office. Best of all Swaptree, not only saves you money and allows you to discover new authors and artists, it is also environmentally friendly by reducing consumption and promoting sharing and recycling.

    Below is a link to a 2 minute video that shows you what Swaptree is all about.

    Thanks for the post, and please feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions.

    Mark Hexamer

  2. Haley said

    I’ve used swaptree before, it’s a good service for avid readers like me. It is/was a great idea, and there’s always room in the industry for a little competition. A site that works only with books would be great!

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