Digital Culture



Hey all you book-borrowers? There’s a new toy in town, and it’s called BookMooch.

Think: Netflix for the book set. You pay shipping, and trade books with people around the world, with BookMooch as the connector.

Bonus points for all the librarians out there: how many of their talking points below sound like Ranganathan? Is this an example of a distributed library? Is the phrase “distributed library” even meaningful? I suggested almost a year ago that LibraryThing institute something like this…and while yes, I understand that paper isn’t going anywhere…boy, can you imagine a system like this for digital books.

BookMooch is a community for exchanging used books.

BookMooch lets you give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want.

  • Give & receive: Every time you give someone a book, you earn a point and can get any book you want from anyone else at BookMooch. Once you’ve read a book, you can keep it forever or put it back into BookMooch for someone else, as you wish.
  • No cost: there is no cost to join or use this web site: your only cost is mailing your books to others.
  • Points for entering books: you receive a tenth-of-a-point for every book you type into our system, and one point each time you give a book away. In order to keep receiving books, you need to give away at least one book for every two you receive.
  • Help charities: you can also give your points to charities we work with, such as children’s hospitals (so a sick kid can get a free book delivered to their bed), Library fund, African literacy, or to us to thank us for running this web site .
  • World wide: BookMooch is not just for Americans. You can request books from other countries, in other languages. You receive 2 points when you send a book out of your country, to help compensate you for the greater mailing cost. John Buckman, who runs BookMooch, lives both in California and London, England, and was frustrated by the vast number of books that were printed in just one country but not any another, or only after several years. Translations into French, German and other languages are planned, and we already work fine with the various Amazon worldwide databases.
  • Wishlist: you can keep a “book wish list” that will automatically arrive to you when you have the points and/or the book becomes available in our catalog. Others earn 2 points if they supply a book on your wishlist, so everyone is highly motivated to help find books others are looking for.
  • All books: our goal is to make more use out of all books, to help keep books from becoming unavailable. The worst thing that can happen to a book is for no-one to be able to read it.
  • Feedback score: each time you receive a book, you can leave feedback with the sender, just like how eBay does it. If you keep your feedback score up, people are most likely to help you out when you ask for a book.
  • How we pay our bills: We tap into Amazon’s book database, and if you follow an Amazon link from our web site, we receive a commission from Amazon if you buy that book instead of getting it free from BookMooch.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

3 replies on “BookMooch”

I’d call bookmooch a shared /private/ library. One has to make a capital investment to take part. Put up your own books and pay to send them out. Another more /public/ library project exists in At bookcrossing, you essentially mark your books as belonging to bookcrossing, leave them in a public place, and then hope others log onto the site, log the book and pass it on to someone new.

While bookmooch operates on a private property model, bookcrossing works on a shared resource model. I’d be interested to hear of other internet-based library approaches.

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