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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
2 months, 20 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
2 months, 4 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
6 months 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
5 months, 19 days 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
6 months, 18 days 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
7 months, 10 days 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
12 months, 28 days 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
10 months, 1 days 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
10 months, 21 days 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
1 year 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
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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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
1 year ago

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Keynote Speech at Open Rights Group conference in Manchester, UK

A few days ago, I gave the keynote at a conference in Manchester, UK held by the Open Rights Group.

The slides can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF from here.

The title is "Britain under the thumb of...", and I talk about how the USA, EU and Britain itself effect issues such as privacy and piracy in the UK. I also compare the different ways in with the Open Rights Group (UK) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA -- I'm the chairman of the board) differ in their approaches, with some opinions about how each government works differently.

John Buckman
1 year ago

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Honest garden

Last week, I visited Western England, mostly hiking and ahem, eating, in a quixotic effort to both get away from the computer and to trim down the winter fat my bathroom scale tells me has been on the increase.

The height of the tour, and reason for this blog entry, was my visit to The Eden Project, which looks like this:

Besides being a massive indoor garden, the project is interesting because it took something that no longer had any value (a eco-disaster-zone, namely a used-up clay mine) and found a way to turn it into something of great value.

Here is what the same spot looked like when the Eden Project took it over:

A spirit of trust and openness pervades the place. For instance, as you approach the gate, there is a simple sign indicating "go here if you need to buy a ticket, or else go this way if you don't" and then... nobody checks to make sure you really do have the right ticket.

The same spirit carries through to the cafeteria, where I found this sign:

next to this cornucopia of deserts:

Like BookMooch, the Eden Project is trusting people to do the right thing, which is the kind of place most people want to live in. And ... it's a massive success, with over a million people visiting each year.

It's almost 5 hours' drive from London, but really worth it!

On a slightly different-but-similar topic, I spent a day mushroom foraging with author and River Cottage celebrity John Wright:

Mushroom foraging is another one of those activities taking something that has no commercial value and turning it into something great (when you have the right knowledge and skill to know which mushrooms you can eat). Unfortunately, while I was very good at finding hidden mushrooms, I appear to also be very good at finding the inedible species. Ah well.

John Wright occasionally runs these foragings for the Summer Lodge in Dorset, where I stayed two nights so I could go on the forage.

Now I just need to find a local mushroom expert in California (Marin County) to check all my gatherings and make sure I don't poison myself!


John Buckman
2 years ago

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BM Journal Project going strong

I want to write a bit about the BookMooch Journal Project, as it has been under the able leadership of Gill Tennant and has been growing strongly for some time now.

You can browse the existing journals here.

Journals are collaboratively written "books", though they vary widely, all the way from scrapbooks to wacky concepts and even prose. Here's a short description:

 Participants can mooch your journal just like any other book listed on BookMooch. Each person that mooches a journal adds their entry, and within two weeks re-posts it into the BookMooch system to be mooched by another member, who adds their entry to the journal and again adds it back to BookMooch for the next moocher (adding to the inventory by its number), and so on. When the journal is completed, it is sent back to its owner.

The "about page" explains what the journals are about, and how they work:

A complete list of journals to mooch is available on this forum:
BookMooch Journals

and Gill recommends that you join this forum to keep up to date with what journals are available. You can do so by clicking here.

You'll also find that many people create a mini-conversation around a journal, on the books page, such as this journal about "Anything and Everything British"

I recently dropped a few vintage postcards of London into the Postcards of London journal.

The web site has been completely revamped, and new books are being created at an incredible rate. Can you believe that 16 new journals were created in just the past 7 days !?!?!?

Give it a try, as many journals take just a few minutes for you to contribute, and it's a great feeling!


p.s.: Gill wrote me to add:

I need to emphasise though that all this would not be possible without the groundwork done by Alicia Edwards on setting up and financing the journal site for a good number of years.

Also I am ably assisted by 6 journallers worldwide who run individual shelves to recover stalled and lost journals which are then added to the journal library inventory for any journaller to request. They are: BMJournal Library Charity N. America Shelf (Alaska) BMJournals Library Charity Australasia Shelf BMJournal Library Charity Americas Shelf BMJournals Library Charity N. Europe bookshelf bmjstates BMJournal Library Charity Mediterranean and African Shelf

Also a plea that all journallers become friends of Bookmooch Journal Library Charity (which you can do by clicking here) - the local mooching and international sending means this is one charity that does not need points donated - but it helps us keep an eye on journals and provide information to new journallers and journal-creators.

John Buckman
2 years ago

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