Swap books, CDs, DVDs and video games for free with Swaptree

by David Spark on February 1, 2009

Before the Web, about 12 years ago, before Napster and before you could burn CDs cost effectively, there was a very active bootleg tape trading scene on Usenet. People would post lists of their audio and video tapes they wanted to trade on the message boards. Users would look at each other’s lists and send emails saying, “I’d like to have such and such from your list, what would you like from my list?” If there was anything you liked you’d copy your tapes and drop the tapes in the mail, making a 1-for-1 tape-for-tape trade.

It was a rather a niche scene and the RIAA and MPAA didn’t get too upset because nothing was being transmitted in volume, exact duplicates weren’t being made (there was degradation since it wasn’t digital), and almost all of the content were true bootleg recordings and not albums or movies being sold commercially.

Swap for free with Swaptree

Today, a service called Swaptree makes the connection for you, legally and for free. To be legal you need to swap original versions of your commercially owned content such as books, CDs, DVDs, and video games. You can’t swap copies. When you sign up for Swaptree, you enter in all the items you have that you want to swap and for each one you need to enter a UPC code or ISBN to indicate you actually own an original copy.

Next step is to enter in all the content that you want. Then Swaptree does the rest, matching people who want stuff to people who have stuff. Once it makes a match, you ship your goods to the provided addresses. You can use Swaptree’s automatic shipping label feature which will print the postage for you (usually about $2.50 for most goods) and charge your credit card. Or you can just handle the shipping yourself if you go to your local post office.

Swaptree highly encourages you to use its “search your address book” feature to find friends on Swaptree or to invite friends to Swaptree. If you have real friends on Swaptree, when it makes a match it’ll give preference to your friends (so you know your trader) and people who live in your neighborhood so you can avoid shipping and you could literally swap face to face.

Caveat emptor

Swaptree doesn’t have any kind of escrow service. There’s no middleman accepting your goods in a way station and then distributing them out to the respective parties. Because of this there is a slight risk, but that risk is mitigated by a few factors. Traders have ratings and if someone stiffs you on a trade then that person’s rating will go down and their trading days on Swaptree will be short lived. You can also make an official report and Swaptree will suspend that user’s account until they uncover what happened.

Another issue that mitigates a trade going sour is the fact that the risk factor is low. You’re getting rid of an item you don’t want anymore that probably costs less than $20. If you didn’t use Swaptree, you probably were going to try to sell that used book or CD to a book store or record store and get a fraction of its true value.

How does Swaptree make money?

As far as I can tell it’s just through advertising and that’s not much. I only saw a couple of Google ads at the top of the site and that’s far from enough to sustain a business. But there’s a rising interest in social shopping and I wouldn’t be suprised if Swaptree is building an audience of users who trust each other and then move into the moer lucrative arena of social shopping.

This news item is for the Spark Minute week of 2/2/09 which can be heard daily on Green 960 and 910 KNEW in San Francisco, CA.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

CD Printers October 19, 2010 at 6:36 am

That seems a pretty good website. Swapping books, cd's, dvd's, and games would be really great especially to people who wants to socialize and get some new stuffs on the net.

CD Printing January 25, 2011 at 2:13 am

One of the best sites I've seen. Swapping is a good alternative of replacing your items that you don't use for a long time to a product that is never been used by the other user you're swapping to.

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