I Broke Up with BookSwim

January 28, 2009 at 6:27 pm | Posted in Book Services | 6 Comments

In the past, I’ve reviewed BookSwim and Paperspine, two book rental services that I have used.  Every now and then I see that someone has searched these terms looking for a review.  To that end, here is the letter I wrote when I cancelled my BookSwim account.

Cancelling one’s account takes multiple steps.  At each point, you are faced with a cute little question asking for the reason you want to quit.  When you check the box, a response comes up reminding you of all their great features.  It takes a while to get to the part where your opinion is solicited.  I take these “exit polls” seriously because I think the information is really valuable for improving services.

Without further ado:

I have been using both BookSwim and Paperspine.  Due to shipping times, my Paperspine books have a total turnaround time of 6 days, while my BookSwim books take 15 or more.  I do not wish to pay extra for faster shipping.

My Paperspine books arrive in cardboard, while my BookSwim books usually come in a shipping bag that has been torn upon arrival every time.  It’s a wonder none of my books have fallen out or become wet or damaged.

My Paperspine books have always come in the order of my queue, save for two exceptions that were in the top three.  My BookSwim books are as likely to come from the bottom half of my pool as from the middle third, meaning I have waited months to read the books I was most enthusiastic about.

Paperspine has no requirement for length of queue.  BookSwim requires a minimum number of books in the pool, which means I have had to add books I was less interested in to fill it out – and then gotten those less interesting books first.

BookSwim sometimes silently removes books from my pool, which I have found tremendously frustrating.  These always seem to be hard-to-find books which then vanish from the BookSwim catalogue.  I have no interest in paying to rent books that I can get at my local library for free.  BookSwim will order books that are in the top 20,000 on Amazon.com, but most of the things I have wanted to rent do not meet that criterion.

Paperspine allows return of single books, meaning I don’t have to wait until I’ve read at least three books before exchanging them for a new set.

I have had trouble getting enough return shipping bags from BookSwim, another problem that delays turnaround time.  I have received batches of four or more books with only one return bag that will not fit all those books.  It’s easy to ask for a new shipping bag to be sent, but there is still a delay.  Paperspine will send an envelope with multiple return shipping bags of different sizes.

I have had a few problems with my account, including books that I have rented disappearing from my list [meaning they are at my house, but don’t show up in my account so I can check them back in].  Maintaining my account with BookSwim has been a bit high-maintenance.

Finally, I’ve read through the majority of the list of books that I could not find elsewhere.  I appreciate the opportunity to rent books with BookSwim, but I always planned to keep my account relatively short-term.

I hope my comments have been helpful.  Thank you for your time.

And there you have it.  I’m still with Paperspine, and I’m still wishing Paperspine carried hardcover books.


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  1. I’ve thought of writing a post like this about why I’ve pretty much quit Book Mooch but remained with Paperback Swap. I know very little about book rentals; it seems to me it would only be worth it for books I was dying to read that the library doesn’t have. And there are many my library doesn’t have. Hm, perhaps I should consider it…

  2. I love that you took the time to give a detailed letter to them. One would hope that they take it into consideration.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I don’t think I would ever use a book rental program, but it’s great information to have in case I change my mind someday.

  4. Hi Jessica. As Chip promised you upon your account cancellation, your thoughts and concerns have, indeed, made their way up the BookSwim chain of command and have landed in my eager hands.

    You’ll be happy to know that you sparked a 2-hour company-wide discussion about policy, language and, well, just about everything. You make excellent points at an excellent time. See, we’re in the middle of redesigning our website – a project we’re calling BookSwim 3.0. We’re literally rebuilding the website and service from the ground up.

    You, dear Jessica, are exactly the sort of clear-headed, articulate and somewhat dissatisfied member we need to help us improve everything from shipping time and web interface all the way down to retooling rental plans to work better for readers like you.

    Here’s what I’d like to do: about a month from now, we want bring you on as one of our one hundred 3.0 Beta testers.

    You’ll get regular opportunities to play around with new features, vote on new processes, let us know what you like and, more importantly, what you don’t like. In exchange for your time and assistance, we’ll start off 3.0 by giving you free service for a while and whatever other prizes and goodies we can send your way as our way of thanking you for helping make BookSwim better not just for you, but for everyone.

    How does that sound? Can we count you in for this exciting adventure?


  5. Well, shoot. I guess I’m going to have to join this “exciting adventure.” It *is* cheaper to rent books than to buy them outright…

  6. Well, Jessica, I just came across this post two+ years later as I’m trying to cancel my very brief Bookswim membership. Many of my complaints are the same as yours were two years ago, so I’m guessing you’re not a happy Bookswim customer again.

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