Book Perfectionist? Paperback Swap is Not for You


Just a few of the many books I received from Paperback Swap. As you can tell, they’re pretty beat up.

I have been a member of a great website called Paperback Swap for the better part of a year and a half now, and I absolutely adore their services. I highly recommend this website for fellow book enthusiasts who have a shelf full of books they are willing to part with- books that you might have somehow acquired but are not desperate to keep in your possession and are willing to trade for another used book you might be interested in reading.

Since joining PBS, there have been a few changes to their membership rules. You now have to purchase a membership plan in order to avoid small fees in order to swap, in addition to paying the postage on the book you are sending to its new parent somewhere in the world. Overall, the fees are reasonable, and I still had several free swaps from having already traded many books before the membership rules were set in place.


A well loved copy of the Portable 20th Century Russian Reader from PBS. The cover has been torn, and the pages are stained.

Now, here comes the but.

I understand that one of the conditions of the website is to not trade a book that would not qualify as being in ‘acceptable’ condition. To be fair, there are conditions that PBS  explains regarding the conditions of the pages, which are listed below and are asked of the swapper before every swap, “Does this book meet the following criteria…?”

  • No torn or chewed/gnawed pages, as below:
    • Tears up to an inch are OK if they don’t interfere with text.
    • Yes, that does say “chewed/gnawed”.  That means no pet-chewed (or human-chewed) books.
  • No loose or missing text pages
    • for travel guide books – maps if designed to be detachable may be detached, but must be included.
    • for picture books/children’s books – all pages, including those with pictures and no text must be included.
  • Cover not water damaged (there may be no water damage to any part of the book)
  • No writing or highlighting or underlining on text pages
    • a signature or note on the flyleaf or inside front or back cover is OKAY
    • an author’s signature on the title page is OKAY
    • writing or highlighting or underlining on the text pages is NOT OKAY

In the nearly two years of belonging to this website, 99% of the books I receive from PBS have some kind of markings, notes, or highlighting in the text itself. It is the very nature of trading used books. These books have character; they’ve seen battle. The covers are beat up, the pages are stained, there are thoughts and inklings written in the margins of chapters. To me, there is nothing more beautiful than seeing the work of someone else’s brain in between the words of my new book. There was once a relationship between someone and this text, and now I have the pleasure and the honor of witnessing this.

However, I understand that some people like their books to be pristine and without a single smudge within the pages of their books. If you fall into this category, Paperback Swap is not for you. I write this rant because for the second time I traded a book that I received from another members on PBS that had some notes on the inside (not my doing but well received on my end) and had a complaint from the new owner who was irritated that there were markings in the text. This person who requested this book did not specifically list in their conditions that they would not accept a book with markings in it, as many PBS members specifically do, and because of this, I am taking a stand and refusing to refund the credit.

A water stained copy of Master and Margarita from PBS. This clearly violates the rules, but it's still readable!

A water stained copy of Master and Margarita from PBS. This clearly violates the rules, but it’s still readable!

You belong to a used book swapping website, and you want a book with zero markings in it, and you didn’t specify this in your initial message to me? On principle, I’m not refunding the credit. Maybe I’m being difficult, but I’m shutting them down. Somebody has to!

Are you a book perfectionist? Are you looking for a perfect library? Might I recommend purchasing your books NEW instead of sending me angry messages via PBS that the used book I sent you is not perfect?

That’s right. Shots fired.



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