Free Survival Books Via Trading

May 24, 2012 by

I like books. A lot. I have 12 bookshelves in my house, and I’d have more if I could get away with it. Books are full of wonderful information about survival, from gardening to knife throwing to how electricity works.  And it’s offline information. It stays with you, and can’t be “retracted” from your Kindle.

But I’m also cheap. Err, frugal. Yes, frugal is a much nicer word. Fiscally conscious.  I love my books, but I really don’t like paying for them. And I certainly never pay new prices.  Well. Maybe once or twice for some favorite blogger’s books.

So how did I amass my beautiful survival library of 500+ reference and fiction books?  Book trading sites. And patience.

The Complete List of Every Prepper Book Ever

Specifically, I’ve used Swap.com (formerly Swaptree.com) since their inception, and also Paperbackswap.com and Bookmooch.com. Let’s talk a little about each of these in turn.

Swap.com LogoSwap.com

This site operates on two or three way trade principal. If you have something I want, and I have something Joe Smith wants, and Joe wants something you have, voila. It’ll match us all up, and we each ship our respective media item to each other. Swap.com allows for trading of books, music, dvds and video/computer games. Most recently, they have added the ability to swap anything, but I’m specifically referencing their media swapping capabilities.

Paperbackswap.com LogoPaperbackswap.com

This site operates on a credit basis – if you want my book, I ship it to you and I get a credit. I can then use my credit at leisure to trade for another book from anyone, anytime. I can even sell my credits for cash (roughly around $2.30-$2.50 each, depending on the market). This site has sister sites, Swapadvd.com and Swapacd.com, where you can trade movies and music. Lots of good survival movies have come into my house thisaway.

Bookmooch.com

Bookmooch.com Logo

The only international site of the three, Bookmooch operates on this weird economic system… it’s credit based like Paperbackswap is, but you get credits for weird things, like for listing books. It’s not an equal system. But only those of us who ponder swapping site economics during our commute times care about that… Personally, I find that it’s really easy to get a lot of credits on Bookmooch, and it’s really easy to get popular books. But if you are looking for more specialized books, like survival books, they don’t come up as often. You may spend more money shipping your books to other users than you can find books in return. But if you like popular fiction books or, say, romance, this might be the site for you.


Each site has it’s perks. And each site has the following in common:

  • You pay for shipping for the outbound book you are providing in the trade (usually $2.60 or less).  Get tracking if you print your postage online. Some sites require it, but either way, you’ll have smoother trades if you have tracking and can prove delivery if necessary.
  • You can upload wish lists from a file or from another site.
  • You can find survival books for much, much cheaper than you could buy them new. You just have to be patient and wait until someone lists it, or until a good trade comes up.

Find Old Books at the Library to Trade for Survival Reference BooksSo these are all trading sites, you ponder.. how do you get books for trade?

  • Call your local library and ask when the next book sale is. Ask if they have a bag sale. Most libraries offer a paper bag of books for $3-5 at the end of their sale. Buy all the popular or odd paperbacks you can find – someone out there wants them. Try and find good condition ones, but if it looks unusual, someone probably wants it either way.
  • Garage sales – if someone is selling their books for $0.25 each, that’s too much. Offer them $5 for the box and see what they say.
  • Craigslist.org – look under the Books category, and search for the word “lot”.  You might find someone selling a half-a-garage full of books for $100. Take them up on it.
  • Ask your friends and family for their old books.
  • If you have a bunch already and they just aren’t trading, take a box of the popular titles (that might be over saturated in the online market) down to a local nursing home or community center, and ask if you can swap your entire box for a box of their books. Most places are thrilled to get new reading material in exchange for their old already-read ones. And you get new inventory to list. Just remember to remove the old books from your trading sites before you trade in the box!

How do the trading sites work?

  • In simple terms, you list the items that you have and want to trade.
  • You also list the items you would like to receive.
  • The sites email you when matches come up. Swap.com doesn’t email – you have to log in and check. It will email you if someone else initiates a trade for something you want, to ask whether you’d like to participate.
  • If you still have the book (check before accepting the trade), great! Accept the trade and ship out your book (or wait until all parties confirm they too can do the trade).
  • You’ll receive another item in return or a trade credit, depending on the site, which you use when an item you want comes up.

Ok, but how do you know what books you want?

Aren’t you in luck. I can’t help you with your regular genres, but I can help you with survival reading lists.  I’ve taken every book ever recommended for preppers on any site I’ve ever read the last 5 years (yes, really) and compiled a nice little list for you.  It’s even downloadable in Excel, and you can import it into all three of these trading sites. You can also import it into Amazon, or click the titles for more information on each book.

If you can look past the need for lovely, nice smelling paper books, consider visiting Natalia’s Prep Utility Vehicle site where she lists today’s free Survival Books for the Kindle. You can scroll backwards in time to see other books that have been offered for free for Kindle users and add them to your digital book list.

Get started – find some books to trade, list them online, build your wishlist (or just use our Every Prepper Book Ever list) and get trading!

2 Comments

  1. BeatBack Nat

    Sandy, thanks for the other links. i have a paperbackswap account, but I didn’t know about swap or bookmooch. and thanks for the giant list. it’s too big for my wishlist on paperbackswap, but i’ll find out if I can import it into the other two sites.

    • Hey Nat,

      Swap.com has a much larger wishlist than Paperbackswap.com, and Bookmooch appears to be unlimited. Keep in mind with PBS that you can pay $13 a year for a premium account and get an extra 100 items on your wish list. That, and you can have two accounts per residential address (or 4 if you have a PO Box…). So you can expand your wish list significantly, and you can transfer credits between your own accounts.

      Good luck, and happy reading!

      ~ Sandy

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