How does a book fair work? Your Guide

Some of my favorite gifts are books from friends who have carefully considered what I like and personalize the recommendation for me. Books are art, and art is subjective. This means that you have to really think things through to recommend a book to someone. I mean, there are so many tangible and intangible things that make someone love a book. Forget the basics like tracing and characterization; it is also important to take into account the interests of the person as well as what they liked to read before. A great way to get solid recommendations is to host a book swap. But how does a book exchange work?

There really aren’t many rules for these, as it changes depending on who you’re swapping a book with and when and where said swapping occurs. But if you get the rules right with the right people, you might walk away with a new favorite read.

If you want to grow your book exchange and/or book exchange, here are some things to consider.

How does a book exchange work?

Go out with a group of friends

As I said, there are several ways to initiate a book exchange. The very first one I attended was a brunch hosted by a group of local Bookstagrammers. It went like this: show up to brunch with the number of books you want to unload from your shelves and place them in the middle of the table. Now I will say there were over 20 of us so our nice server had to bring extra chairs for our impromptu library. A hat with numbers was then distributed, and your number dictated when you could make a selection. The general rule was that you could only choose the number of books you brought. I will say there were a few people who brought dozens of books, so in the end we were allowed to take our pick of the leftovers, and whatever wasn’t picked up was donated to a library local.

go online

I also participated in an online book exchange, in which a friend provided the address of a mutual acquaintance to whom I should send a book. In return, I would receive a book from another common acquaintance. Honestly, I didn’t know how things were split, but while I certainly sent my book to the person in question, I never received one back. If you are hosting a virtual exchange or an exchange where everyone lives in different states or countries, I highly recommend having a resource person who holds people accountable. Having a set budget for books and shipping is also advisable. In these cases, I don’t recommend exchanging books with strangers, as it can quickly turn into some sort of pyramid scheme. Only trade online with people you know will be true to their word

Organize a book party

Something I’ve wanted to do since I moved into a bigger apartment is have a book swap with close friends, kind of like a Secret Santa, and throw a book party.

I have also seen larger organizations such as schools and churches hold large-scale book swaps in which book donations are collected and then brought together for a one-day event. Some locations even include branded book plaques so attendees can see who had the book before.

How to Start a Book Swap

Here are some things to consider before arranging a book exchange:

  1. Find friends, colleagues, family, neighbors and acquaintances to participate. Dig into your network for book lovers. Believe me, they are there. I think the more the better for book swaps, so ask your friends to join their network as well.
  2. Decide if it will be an in-person event or an online event. In-person events can range from a brunch to a party. Online events can be Google or Zoom meetings (with books shipped ahead of time) with everyone coming together to share their new reads.
  3. Consider a remote option in times of COVID-19. You can have a contact person who coordinates while asking all attendees to fill out surveys about what they would like to read. These answered surveys are then taken by the reference person and given to others in exchange with information about who completed the survey. Participants then send bespoke books to the person they have and receive one in return. An option like this is safe as long as the contact person holds everyone accountable.
  4. Set a budget. Emphasize that the swap is for people to clear their shelves or if it’s a secret Santa in which a strict budget is set. It’s best to be upfront about the money, especially if there are shipping and handling charges.
  5. Make sure people follow. Again, it’s not fair for someone to take time, energy and money to find a book for someone and not have it reciprocated. Pay attention to anyone who receives a book.

You can also find out how to do a holiday book exchange and learn a bit more about using the small free libraries.

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