Bookmooch, book-guilt and voracious reading

BookMooch logo -book

Yesterday my publisher sent me the list of where copies of The Summer King are being sent for review. Scary stuff! We had quite a long email conversation a couple of months ago about where it would be worth sending to. It was a depressing conversation – the number of places that routinely run poetry collection reviews is shrinking, and the pool of reviewers has never exactly been huge anyway. (And that applies everywhere – to the best of my knowledge, New Poetries IV has only been reviewed once!) On a sombre note,  it now means that I have entered the countdown to the first time I see a copy of The Summer King in a secondhand bookshop somewhere … it’s already happened with listening to the rain (although the bookshop in question was marketplace, and the price being asked is substantially greater than its original rrp!).

Illustration credit Andrice Arp, courtesy of

To a related point. I’ve blogged before about my love-affair with BookMooch (for those who haven’t caught up, it’s an international book swapping site, and yes it’s as good as it sounds. The curious might like to listen to an interview with the guy who created it on the British book-lover site Litopia). As it happens, I was one of the very early members – read about it just after it was launched, signed up, and then promptly forgot about it in the throes of returning to New Zealand. Eight months later I remembered, logged back in and have been addicted ever since.

Illustration by Andrice Arp, courtesy of

Knowing how damn near impossible it is for most writers to make a living from the sale of their books, it took me quite a while before using BookMooch stopped feeling like a form of treachery. But it hasn’t reduced my book buying – quite the opposite. I can try new authors on a whim, in the certain knowledge that somewhere out there is a person who will love this book, even if I don’t. It constantly amazes me how books that I would have thought were beyond redemption get mooched – we’re talking books with heavy pen and highlighter markings, even with pages missing. Books on obscure subjects that no-one has ever heard of. Hell, people have even been known to mooch The Da Vinci Code! †

BookMooch logo – middle

One of the ways I’ve used BookMooch is to give away surplus copies of books – the ones that get a big dogeared and aren’t really saleable, or a couple of donated extra copies from an author’s stash. It feels a hell of a lot better than letting them gather dust in a corner somewhere. Or bunging them into a charity bin (and as much as I love secondhand bookshops, I get incredibly depressed by the rows of books in charity shops). Ok, you pay the postage costs for sending them away. But you get Mooch points in return, and it does all work out in the end. (And it’s a nice feeling, to think that someone in deepest darkest Quebec is reading your poems of the Australian outback, or that someone in the Philippines is reading haiku about New Zealand rugby …)

And Bookmooch is trialing another alternative to conventional book distribution: the “pay what you think it’s worth” model that was used recently by Radiohead. (Ok, maybe it didn’t work out quite so well for them. On the other hand, how much money did they get in free publicity? How about good will? Other bands have talked about doing the same thing, so it can’t have been an unmitigated financial disaster.) The BookMooch version – currently under the name “Mooch before you Buy” – has a couple of extra things in its favour, the biggest of which is the fact that BookMooch is a community of booklovers. We already understand the ethics of the situation, and understand that this sort of thing will only work if no-one loots and pillages. Be interesting to see how it goes. Given the economics of poetry publishing, maybe this is a possible future option for poetry too?

BookMooch logo images by Andrice Arp, used courtesy of BookMooch
BookMooch logo images by Andrice Arp, used courtesy of BookMooch

† NOT from me. Never read it, never owned it, never plan to. I’m a poet. I have some standards.

2 Replies to “Bookmooch, book-guilt and voracious reading”

    1. Scanning the list it would seem not, although it’s been suggested that they would reconsider if there was a specific request indicating that publication X were definitely keen to review the book, rather than simply fishing for a freebie. (Given the number of free copies that are going out anyway, I can’t really blame them.) (Takahe, if you’d like to review the book, please contact OUP!)

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