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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Trend: Swapping Retail Models

Bookworms on the Web

National Public Radio did a great story recently about online book swapping groups. A far cry from sophisticated library programs like Netflix, the two services they listed are folksy but interesting. lets you list 9 paperback books online in exchange for 3 credits. If someone requests a book you've listed, you stick it in the mail (average cost for mailing a paperback book is $1.42) and you get one credit--good for one book. The goal is to list as many books as you like—the more people order your books, the more credits you have to order more free books for yourself.

At, for $3.99 a book, the list of books you own and the list of books you'd like to read are sorted based on popularity, bestseller lists, and other factors. Popular books are given more trading points. You mail your books when requested, and automatically get books from your wishlist in return. The site also allows you to print shipping labels with USPS postage at home.


AKI COMMENT: the On-Demand/Customer Democracy continues...great grassroots examples. Further...Perhaps the internet may actually make the concept of SWAP as viable a RETAIL/PROCUREMENT MODEL as PURCHASE or RENT! SWAP certainly reframes value for the consumer, ie, new is no longer the singular driver for demand or interest - and no longer is cash the defining exchange rate, but instead purpose and need (no matter how temporary). And in a burgeoning age of RECYCLE-FRIENDLY - might other industries succumb to SWAP/TRADE as a core transaction model above the notion as an insincere sidebar to the objective of selling all-new? Could cars be collectively swapped amongst us (not solely traded for disposal for new) and we enjoy the pleasures of a sports car in the summer (the one our wives won't let us actually buy), and a 4-wheel drive in the winter by swapping with comrades (the gas-guzzling one that i normally have moral convictions against except that it sure comes in handy in this month's snow drifts)? Swappable Homes (time share begins this theory)? Expensive Sports Equipment that I only use once a year and require massive storage systems for? Toys that are gonna get stale in two weeks? Any other SWAP ideas?


salina said...

There's an outfit called Bag, Borrow or Steal that lends out designer handbags--Gucci, Chanel, Fendi--for a monthly fee (starting at $19.95). Once borrowed, bags can be kept as long as you want to keep sporting them and your account is still active at BBS.

Kind of an interesting way of making the exclusivity of high end fashion more egalitarian. It seems less free-wheeling than operations like couch surfing, where there's no established fee for swapping homes with a stranger, but after a certain point, it seems like stuff like this in inevitably harnessed.

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