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I'm in the New York Times magazine

The New York Times Magazine has a story appearing this Sunday, about ZPM espresso (a kickstarter-backed coffee machine company) and my attempt to buy them when their company ran out of cash.

Unfortunately, the link to me in the story (at the end) is incorrect, it should be but other than that, it's a heck of a good read!


John Buckman
21 days ago

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BookMarks and moochcards available in USA and Europe

I have boxes of BookMooch bookmarks and mooch cards available to all moochers in the USA or Europe. These are available for free to anyone who wants them, for the "price" of a mooch point.

BookMooch : Box of 500 BookMooch Bookmarks

1000 mooch cards (business card sized, fits in your wallet) - only one box in the USA, a few boxes still in the UK.
BookMooch : Box of 1000 BookMooch hand-out cards

and if you want a smaller quantity,

25 hand out cards:
BookMooch : Box of 25 BookMooch hand-out cards

Bookmarks : 25 Bookmooch Bookmarks

If you're in the USA, these will be sent from my house in California right away. If you mooch from the UK, I'll be sending them in mid-March. If you mooch from France, I'll send them in April (when I'll be there).

- john

John Buckman
1 year ago

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Refreshing Amazon book data

In redoing the recent books feature to be more graphical, I started noticing that a lot of books at BM don't have book cover graphics, but do have covers visible at Amazon.

I researched this a bit, and it turns out to simply be that Amazon has added a LOT of book covers to their database, and since BM only reads the Amazon database when the book is first added to BM, we haven't been seeing all the new covers Amazon has added.

Also, I noticed that Amazon has really cleaned up their crazy "Topics" data, on many books, which is a continual source of irritation to moochers.

So, I've made a few changes to help with this problem:

1) every time a book is added to an inventory or a wishlist, if the Amazon data is older than a day, BM now automatically checks to see if Amazon has updated info about the book.

2) there is a "refresh data" button on every book details page, that you can click. If the book details are pretty scarce (ie, no cover, no description), you can click it, and if Amazon has data now, it'll plop right into BM! Go ahead and click "refresh data" on all the books in your inventory or wishlist, if you want to see more covers!

3) And finally, I'm having BM do a refresh of every book in all inventories. Once that's done, I'll do a refresh of all wishlists and save-for-later too. As there are 12 million books in BM, and it takes about 1 second to fetch the data from Amazon, it'd take 133 days to refresh all the books in BM's database. Since we don't want to wait that long, I'm prioritizing books-that-can-be-mooched first.

All in all, this should give us a much more graphical mooching experience!


John Buckman
1 year ago

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new project? ?

I've had a new project in mind, following in the footsteps of BookMooch, for a few years.

However, there are some parts of the idea that I haven't been able to solve, so I thought I'd post the idea here, start a forum on BM to discuss the idea, and see if all together, we can get the idea far enough evolved that it sounds like it might actually work.

Here's the idea for "Mooch Me" (.com):

    Imagine a "mooch" web site, where we all trade favors for things that we love to do anyway. Our passionate hobbies, but not what we do for a living.

These are the activities we which we wish we could spend more time doing, but that we don't necessarily want to do for money.

Here are some activities I do, that I really enjoy, but don't want to make a career out of:

  1. I love doing portrait photography, especially of quirky, artsy people, where it's a challenge to get their personality to show through the camera lens.

  2. I also enjoy recording classical and folk musicians. So much so, that I created a tiny company to try to do more of it. Doing recordings for money has been fun about half the time, and truly awful the other half of the time.

  3. I like doing pottery, but my house is cluttered with stuff I've made, and I'm nowhere near good enough to sell any of it (nor do I want to).

  4. And finally, I love advising potential and actual entrepreneurs, and have spoken at many conferences about my ideas. For the right kind of person, my advice is helpful

These are all hobbies I would be happy to practice for someone else's benefit. At the same time, I don't want to get abused. Tricky problem to solve!

Like BookMooch, this would be cashless, with the only way to get favors is to do some yourself.

Everyone contributes.

What do you think of this idea?

Here are some of the problems I'm trying to solve

  1. this is a new idea, never (to my knowledge) tried, but there are related ideas, such as Time Banking, and local currencies. However, none of those have focussed on the hobbies people are good at, that they love doing, but that they don't want to do professionally. These are the things that, for many people, give life meaning. When I explain MoochMe to non-moochers, they invariably (mis)interpret as something that's already been done. How can I explain this idea quicker and more clearly?

  2. how should the exchange currency work? I dislike the time banking concept of "1 hour spent is 1 hour earned" because, like communism, it doesn't reward improving your efficiency, your quality, and doesn't reward years of effort to get to this point. At the same time, if everyone prices their work with variable "mooch points" this idea could very quickly feel like a marketplace, more like etsy, than a non-professional exchange. Another possibility is for MoochMe to operate without a currency: reputation is all that matters.

  3. Many people lack the self-confidence or don't want to make the effort to very clearly describe what they can do. does a great job of getting around that problem. I like and use Fiverr, but to me that site feels like exploitation, and Fiverr actively discourages the social dimension to the work.

I'd love to know what you think and if you have any ideas for solving the problems above.

If MoochMe sounds like something you'd like to have exist, please join the moochme forum.


John Buckman
7 months, 29 days ago

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8th Birthday for BM!

I can hardly believe it, but eight years ago, BookMooch was born!

Admittedly, due to eBooks, traditional books are no longer at their peak, but they're not gone yet!

Here are some interesting stats, as of today:

1) in the past year, 147,000 have been swapped on BM, an average of 403 books per day.

2) there are 236,000 unique book titles available for mooching

3) 15,000 people are currently active members on BM. 242,000 people have been members of BM at one time in the past 8 years.

4) My personal favorite: over 71,000 "smooches" have been given. Much love goes out to you, those who send smooches to people you admire!

5) Over 6,000 of you have given to charities of BM, for a total of 160,000 points !

When I started BookMooch in 2006, I knew that there would be a future decline in traditional books, but I wanted to do this project anyway. I wanted to do my part to see those books already printed remain in circulation, and have them find more readers.

At this point, BookMooch's software is fairly "mature" and I only fiddle with it now and then (recently, I changed how emails from BM are sent to avoid them being rejected).

I'm working on some new projects at the moment, some of which might be interesting to you, and I'll be announcing them here, when they're launched.

On another note, a few weeks ago I was in Berlin, and was upset to find that the "book forest" (a free lending library built into trees) I knew about was no longer there. It turns out that it had moved a few blocks away, and was in as good a state as ever.

Here are two photos: me in my recently acquired fancy Berlin clothes, and just the tree on its own.

John Buckman
9 months, 18 days ago

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new gizmo to help with future problems

My helper Rich stopped by the "colocation facility" where BookMooch sits, and today installed a new gizmo onto the BookMooch server, which I wanted to tell you about. The server was down about 30 minutes today as this was done, and I also backed everything up for good measure.

Every once in a while (maybe once or twice a year) "something weird" happens on the BookMooch server. Perhaps the operating system crashes, or a network card suddenly "goes bad" and we moochers have to wait until Rich drives out to see what is on the screen.

Back in August, Rich hurried back from a wedding one sunday to solve one such random problem, staying up until about 3am to resolve it (and then off to his day job on monday!).

The new gizmo we just put in is a "remote KVM", ie this:

and it allows me, from home, to see what's on the BookMooch server's screen, even if the entire machine has crashed. It's essentially a very, very long cable to the keyboard and screen on that server. Pretty neat!

That hopefully means that I won't have to get Rich to get out of bed as often.

So... my thanks to those of you who "give a little" , as that's where the funds for the few hundred dollars to buy this gizmo came from.

A few of you previously said you wanted to send Rich a "thank you" for his help these past years.

Even if it's just a postcard with a few lines of unreadable scrawl, or some chocolate to placate his wife for all the late nights he's been away to solve some mooch emergency, I know he'd appreciate it.

If you feel moved to send something, post it to mooch headquarters at:

BookMooch (attn: little helper)
454 Las Gallinas Ave #142
San Rafael CA 94903

John Buckman
1 year ago

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Emails have changed

Today, I changed how emails from BookMooch will look when they're sent to you.

In the past, emails for mooch requests, and other messages from members, came from the member's email address itself.

This was convenient, but a few web sites thought that technique made our emails look like spam. A few emails services couldn't receive our emails, but most could.

A few days ago, Yahoo mail changed their policy so that they would no longer accept emails like this (ie, that say they're From: one person, but some other company sent the email).

So... time to change! We've got to be able to get our emails to Yahoo, they're too big to ignore!

As of today, I've changed how emails from BookMooch now look.

From now on, emails from BookMooch will be From: "" but the Reply-To: address will be the user who sent the email (or made the mooch request).

In *most* cases, you shouldn't perceive any difference. Most email programs will correctly reply to the Reply-To address.

However, if you do send an email to, you'll get a bounce back that it was undeliverable. This would happen if you decided to send to both the Reply-To address (ie, the member) and also back to as well. So, don't do it!

Hopefully, this change will go smoothly. If you see problems, please email tech support and we'll try to figure the problem out!


John Buckman
12 months, 16 days ago

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multiple mooch problem

For a few hours earlier today, BookMooch had a server problem, where many pages weren't working, and mooched books weren't removed from giver's inventories.

This means that a few hundred of you likely have the same book in your inventory mooched more than once.

Please, if you have multiple mooches, go ahead and reject the later mooches, and keep (and honor) the 1st mooch you received for a book.

I'm really sorry about this! I know it makes a lot of work for everyone!

The problem (I think!) was caused by my little helper trying to be helpful and installing something w/o my asking, while I was asleep. However, everything seems ok now, except that many of you have multiple mooches.

If you're confused about what to do, or see some other sort of problem, please email support and they'll help you out.


John Buckman
12 months ago

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BookMooch stubbed its toe

You may have noticed that BookMooch tripped over a bookcase, stubbed its toe, and was out of commission for about 20 hours.

Sorry about that!

(begin tech speak) What actually happened is that the ethernet card on the BookMooch server mysteriously decided to die. Once my helper made his way down to the colocation center and figured out that was the problem, it was a short visit to the computer store to swap it out and now everything's ok. (end tech speak)

So, everyone back to your mooching!



If you'd like to postal mail a "thank you" of some sort to my helper (his name is Richard Houck) please mail it to me at my BookMooch postal address, and I'll send it on to him. He's a lovely guy, and I know he likes Chocolate, Shortbread and Whisky! (grin)

454 Las Gallinas ave #142
San Rafael CA 94903

John Buckman
1 year ago

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Merry xmas from England

I'm in England over Christmas, visiting my girlfriend's mother in the town of Boston (the original one, not the new one in the USA).

Today, we went on a day trip to Skegness, a seaside village with the slogan "Skegness, it's so bracing".

While trudging through the wet, cold wind, we came across "Café Mooch" and I just had to take a picture. I (just) managed a smile before scampering off to the fish & chips place, where the grease serves as so much fuel to keep the body warm.

To all of you who are enjoying a few days off from work, enjoy your holidays, and happy mooching!


John Buckman
1 year ago

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Small recent books changes

A few small changes on the "recent books" page...

1) I'm now only showing a max of 10 topics per book, which greatly increases the number of books that can be shown per page. However, if you "search" then BM still searches all the topics for each book

2) non-moochable books are now definitely being hidden from the recent books feed. There were some cases where books that were added and then no longer available were still in "Recent books". Now, I have something which tests every book in recent-books once a minute, and removes the unmoochable books that snuck in.

3) if you want to see only books in your country search for "united kingdom" (ie the name of your country) and the recent books feed will be customized for you.

4) I'm not having trouble with the RSS feed (one person said it didn't work for them). I tried entering at and it worked as expected.

5) a quick check on Amazon vs BM finds that books w/o book covers don't have book covers at Amazon either. However, many fewer books are now without book covers, thanks to the amazon refresh.


John Buckman
1 year ago

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New: recent books rewritten

I've rewritten the recent books feature, so it now works again, and is completely Twitter-free. I've done it in a very visual style, with cover art and a variety of fonts. Hopefully more people will like what I've done with the "look" of "recent books" than those who dislike it!

Take a look at it at:

You can also search inside the recent books, for any text that appears on the page, and only books that match all your conditions will be displayed.

For example, if you search for "romance united states":

you'll only get books that mention "romance" that also mention "united states".

The "search" feature is really useful if you only want to see books that are in your country.

The "recent books" page automatically refreshes every minute. You might have a slight screen blink when the page refreshes: in a later iteration of the feature, I'll fix that.

A few things to note:

1) any book that is added that is on someone's wishlist is not displayed in "recent books" until the wishlist members have received their email notification. This is so that existing members, who have built up their wishlists, have precedence.

2) any book that is not on any wishlist, is displayed right away on "recent books". This could potentially be a problem if someone adds a lot of books and doesn't realize how many mooches they'll get, but I feel that negative is balanced off by the quick mooching of books you've added to your inventory, so that while you're still using the BM web site, the pending mooches start coming in.

3) any books that are mooched, or removed from inventory, are automatically removed from the "recent books" feed. Only moochable books are displayed.

4) the country where the book is located is displayed on "recent books". However, this doesn't necessarily mean that this person will send to you. I *could* change this, and only display moochable-by-you books. It's a bit of work on my part, but it would be useful, so I'm thinking of it.

5) I know that people asked for RSS feeds, and I'll be adding that feature shortly. I also need to update the API for this new feature (the recent books API call is currently not working).

6) The page looks best in a recent web browser that can accept custom fonts. It does work with IE6 and IE8, but it doesn't look as nice.

7) the cover art is "retina display" compatible, so if you use a high resolution tablet, laptop or phone, the cover art will look stunning, even as you zoom in on the page.

8) I'm going to see what I can do to have more books display cover art.

I think that's all I have to report for now... let me know your thoughts!


John Buckman
1 year ago

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Mooch cards in UK, Europe

I'm in London at the moment, and just discovered that I have 40 boxes of mooch cards in my cupboard.

I'd be happy to send boxes of 1000, or envelopes of about 50 to anyone who mooches them in the UK/EU area. If you get a box of 1000 (recommended!) you can slip a dozen in with each book you send out, as a way of distributing them around the Global Mooch Network.

Here is the mooch URL for a box of 1000:
BookMooch : Box of 1000 BookMooch hand-out cards

and here is the mooch URL for an envelope:
BookMooch : Box of 25 BookMooch hand-out cards

American moochers - I only have a box or two of these left in the US, so I'm afraid these are only available to UK/EU moochers for now. Sorry!

These cards look like the images below, and fit in your wallet (they're credit card sized), which is very handy.

John Buckman
1 year ago
1 comment

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Bookmarks available to all, USA and Europe

I have about 100 boxes of BookMooch bookmarks available to members in the USA or Europe: BookMooch : Box of 500 BookMooch Bookmarks

these are available for free to anyone who wants them.

These will be sent from my house in California over the next 3 weeks.

As of October 1st, I'm in England, and then visiting France, and so I'll bring boxes on the airplane and send them to Europeans around the first week of October.

There are 500 bookmarks in each box. If this is more than you can use, please offer your spare ones for mooching in sets of 25, 50, or 100 at a time, by adding one of these to your inventory:

I'm also happy to send out 25 bookmarks at a time to anyone who wants them in the USA or Europe: Bookmarks : 25 Bookmooch Bookmarks

- john

BookMooch Bookmarks
1 year ago

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Book 1 of 2... new feature on Pending page

I've added a tiny little feature, to fix something that's annoyed me for years.

When people mooch more than one book from you, this will now be indicated in your "Pending" page with a bold-green line that says "Book 1 of X to (person)". This will help you notice that you need to package up several books in the same box for one person.

I don't know about you, but gawd, there have been so many times when I boxed, sealed and estamped a package, only to find that the next mooch on my pending list is to the person I just packaged up.

So... sigh... either I reopen the package I just finished, and add normal stamps to the total, or I just send another package. That's no good.

Hopefully, with this small change, I (and you) won't make this mistake any more!

Let me know in the comments if I got the programming wrong and the feature misbehaves in some way.

Here's how this looks on the pending page:

John Buckman
2 years ago

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Doom & gloom?

 Just wondering can we expect any changes on Bookmooch in the near future ?
There appears to be a lot of doom & sad predictions from a vast number of members.

As it turns out, yesterday I changed the BM signup form to not ask for your personal address, as i think that spooks people who want to check us out, and BM doesn't actually need it until you try to mooch (and _then_ it gets your home address).

I'm also currently working on some "training videos" to help new users ease into the world of mooching.

So yes, I am working on things, but with a focus on "tweaking" to help new members come on board, and not so much "radical changes" as I think BookMooch, as a software program, works fairly well. Some things that people don't like, such as the metadata about books (categories, for instance) aren't easy to fix, as that comes from Amazon and their data is the source of the problem.

I don't subscribe to the "doom and gloom" outlook, but I think it's also important to face the fact that the glory days of "dead tree books" is behind us, caused by (among other things) the ascendency of eBooks and rising postal costs.

If you use to look at other "dead tree book" web sites, you'll find that every one is down considerably. Paperbackswap, according to alexa, has lost 50% of its audience in the past 18 months. Also, the press has "moved on" and doesn't really cover this sector any more -- again, it's all about apple, amazon and ebooks.

On the other hand, I think the worst is behind us. All the statistics at show a peak around 2008/2009, with a healthy drop, and then a flattening of the decline so that we're now at a new steady state. For instance, look at the number of members offering books, which hit a height of 31,000 members, but has stabilized at around 19,000 members for a year now.

I will continue to improve BookMooch, but I also think that the hopes of a "big jump up" in usage and members just isn't going to happen. Back in 2010/2011 I added a large number of features, which made existing members happy, but none of those caused an influx of new members.

About 3.5 million books have been swapped on BookMooch since 2006, and yesterday, there were 672 books exchanged. That's still a quarter million books a year!

BookMooch is a lovely place for people who love real books and love trading them with other people. That isn't going to change, but we do need to realize that all of us here are a bit oddball, and not representative of the greater world.

That being said, I'd love to hear y'alls top one or two ideas for making BookMooch much better.


John Buckman
2 years ago

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More on recent books

Thanks to the feedback from many of you, I've made a bunch of changes/improvements to the recent books page:

  1. the admins asked me to put a delay on posting new books to "recent books" so that (a) scammers who post books and are shortly thereafter caught, don't cause a lot of people to be upset (admins catch them quickly and vacation their account). and (b) brand new users who post a lot of books to their inventory, have a chance to take some off if they start feeling overwhelmed. So... if you put a new book in your inventory, currently the system will wait 24h before posting it to "recent books", and it'll also wait until everyone on the wishlist has been notified.

    So that's why, after I restart the BookMooch server, you won't see any "recent books" for a few hours, until the delay the admins asked for has expired.

  2. there is now an "rss" feed version, for those of you who know what to do with that. There's an RSS icon on the recent books page that you can subscribe to. It also supports the "search" field, so you can subscribe to any number of new-book subsets that interest you.

  3. the "blinkiness" on how the recent books page was doing its periodic refreshes is now fixed with some javascript magic. The page auto-refreshes every 60 seconds (or every 10 minutes if you're running IE8/IE7/IE6, with a blink). The way I'm doing this is a bit of scotch-tape-and-scissors, so if it doesn't refresh for you, let me know, and do tell me what OS and browser version you're using.

  4. for those who use it, the "recent books API" now works again.

John Buckman
1 year ago

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A experiment in giving

Four years ago, I tried an experiment with an author friend of mine, which I blogged here:

the idea was to give away 45 copies of a book through BM, and ask people to "tip" the author if they liked the book. They should tip a little bit if they were passing the book onto someone else, or tip a lot if they were keeping the book.

Here is the book in question:
Ramsay Wood : A Cat May Look at a King

It was a full color book of cat stories, thus expensive to print, and I wanted to see how the experiment turned out.

I just logged into the paypal account for the tips, and found $176 in tips there, which amounts to a little less than $4 per book. That's not too bad.

Looking at the stats, I think that the problem is that most people kept the book, rather than passing it on. There were a total of 73 givers (including the 45 I Ramsay and I gave), so only 28 copies of the 45 were passed on. There are 100 people who want the book (wishlisted) but nobody is giving their copy away.

Perhaps the problem with this experiment was that the book was *too* nice, being full color, so that people wanted to keep it rather than reading it and passing it on?

I could add a feature to BM, showing who BM thinks the current owner of each copy is. In theory, BM could even email the current owners, letting them know that there are 100 wishlisters who want the book. Amazon does much the same thing, a few weeks after you buy a new book, letting you know about the used book demand for it.

Anyone else have any thoughts?


John Buckman
1 year ago

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recent books and Twitter

As many of you have noticed, the "recent books" feature at BM isn't currently working.

The reason is that Twitter changed the way programs need to work with them, and I haven't rewritten the "recent books" feature to work with the new way Twitter does this.

The reason I haven't done this, is that I'm really, really fed up with Twitter, and would like to propose no longer using them for the "recent books" feature.

There are two reasons I'm annoyed with Twitter:

1) way back when the feature was programmed by me, you could search for #hash tags in the BM Twitter feed, which was really handy, because you could (for instance) do a search for "#scifi #uk" and instantly be notified when moochable scifi books were available in the UK. However, at some point Twitter stopped full text indexing the BM feed, so this stopped working.

2) Twitter would randomly put daily-posting-limits on our feed, so even though there were new books available, they rejected our tweets. Once, I got a human being in tech support, who removed the limit. That lasted about 2 years, then the limits came back, and no human being at Twitter replied to my inquiries.

So... I'm thinking of redoing the "recent books" feature to not use Twitter, but to either user a competitor or to use an open source program or for me to simply write something that does the job we need.

For example, there's StatusNet, which is open source and provides similar features:

Using Google+ is possible, but there seems to be a 500-per-day limit, which will bite us too.




Thanks, everyone, for your feedback. I had been thinking of doing it as an "RSS Feed" and that's likely what I'll do.

For nontechnical folks, you won't need to know about the underlying technology, because I'll be putting in a "live display", similar to the "preview" on this page:

but I'll also make it so that both the RSS feed, and the "live feed" display can take parameters such as the country and book genre that you're interested in.

John Buckman
1 year ago

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Academic survey for BM

I've been working with Shun Ye, an academic at the University of Maryland, for the past 2 1/2 years, helping him with his analysis of BookMooch.

Yes, it's really been that long (!) and I've kept at it because Shun has had some really interesting insights, and not shied away from the hard work of really understanding the complicated data of real books being traded by real people.

At any rate, Shun asked me to mention his Survey that he'd like moochers to take, which you can find here:

I'm also asking him for permission to reprint some of his analysis, that he sent me by email. I don't want to mess up his chances of getting published in a top journal, but I also want the information to be set free!


update: Shun said he'd be happy to share some insights with the BM community, but wants to hold off for now, lest it taint the survey results, which are being used to verify the preliminary results.
John Buckman
2 years ago

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