Thursday, July 26, 2012

Academic Book Exchange


I'm assuming everyone is at least passingly familiar with various swap meet/stuff exchange websites or communities. The idea is simple: you have something you don't want or need, so you offer it to a community of other folks who might actually need or want it. This is an example of the kind of thing I mean: http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php

I propose forming such a community for graduate students, postdocs, and tenure-track academics, those of us whose careers depend on our research and access to research, but who are not so financially secure that we can devote $1,000 of our yearly income to books. Our university libraries are often excellent for getting journal articles, but book-length works can be an issue. Recalling a checked-out book can still mean a wait of a few weeks (or longer, depending on who has checked out the book). A successful recall can end in yet another recall, as the original party wants the book once again. Interlibrary loan can provide access to books not held locally, but delays are inevitable, and the check-out period varies depending on the policies of one's own library and those of the loaning library. It's nice that I can get any book I want through interlibrary loan, but it's much less nice when I wait two weeks for a book, only to find that I have five days to read it before returning it. Libraries sometimes take a while to acquire new books, and once acquired, entering them into the library catalog takes another indeterminate length of time. Nevertheless, I know there are academics who can (and do) quickly purchase books though they have no intention of reading them until the semester is over, or who have received books as review copies, desk copies, or exam copies and do not intend to use them. On the other hand, we also seem to end up with books that we don't need (at least, not at the moment), or that we did need when acquired but have put aside now that the relevant work is done.

Let's shuffle some of these resources amongst ourselves. All we need to do is set up a website or forum where users can post their needs and collections, and we may end up solving some problems (and make it easier for those of us on the lower end of the income scale to do timely research). If anyone is interested, I can be contacted through this blog.