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Archive for Monday, April 5, 2010

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(Almost) Free trade: Swaptree, similar sites sustainable way to get entertainment fix

April 5, 2010

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One man’s trash is another man’s treasure; or, in the case of Swaptree users, one man’s copy of “Memoirs of a Geisha” is another man’s second-hand gift for his wife on her birthday.

Swaptree.com, a Web site that allows users to trade their old books, DVDs, CDs and video games with other users while only paying the cost of shipping, not only saves space in landfills but also saves countless dollars for its users who would otherwise have to pay full-price for the latest John Grisham paperback or Coldplay CD.

“Instead of having to pay $200 for 10 new books, you could potentially pay $10 for 20 used books,” says Sasha Lund, a KU sophomore from Eudora. “It’s a really easy way to decrease the consumption of paper products with added benefits.”

According to its Web site, users create a “want” list of any entertainment item they want to receive as well has a “have” list of the items they want to trade by entering the items’ ISBN codes.

The Web site then automatically starts creating trades by matching items that are on one person’s “have” list with items other people have on their “want” lists and vice-versa.

The site then notifies users by e-mail of a potential trade that they can either accept or reject. If both users accept the trade, Swaptree e-mails the house address of the person to whom they must ship their item.

“Swaptree is kind of addicting,” says Lund, who has been trading since she heard about the site from a friend in 2008 while participating in Americorps. “After I got started on it, I started scouring my house for books and old movies that I was willing to trade.”

Jeff Severin, director of the KU Center for Sustainability, says he likes the idea of a Web site that allowed people to recycle things that might otherwise sit unused on book shelves.

“Swapping is an interesting concept in itself, and it develops that community of people that can trade items. It’s about being able to share resources,” he says. “It gets back to the whole idea of being able to reuse those items and providing new life forms for them.”

Severin said one concern he had about trading on Swaptree was vehicle emissions that resulted from mailing something across the country.

He also said that public libraries were probably the most sustainable way people could get their entertainment fix because resources there were used repeatedly over time.

“But for people who really want to have their own copy and not worry about when it’s due at the library, it’s a great way to find those books or CDs that you want,” he says.

Swaptree also has a rating system similar to eBay’s, in which users provide feedback on each other after transactions. Factors considered when rating another member include how fast the user shipped the item, the quality of the item shipped and whether the condition of the item was as the user described.

For those who can’t be bothered by driving to the post office to ship their item, users can even print accurate mailing labels directly from the Swaptree Web site.

Lund says she hoped more people in the Lawrence area would get involved because the site first searched a user’s locale for potential trades before searching other places in order to cut down on shipping costs.

“The more users there are, the more dynamic the [trading] community will be,” she says. “I think that as word spreads it will get better and better.”

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