By Tamar Zmora
In this age of piracy, we find ourselves at a crossroads: a past of page-turning, a present of electronic page views, and a future of who knows what (although I don't believe books will completely disappear and disintegrate a la Fahrenheit 451, I make no promises).
A common New Year's resolution I hear is to read more. But, as with many resolutions, the excuses for falling by the wayside are plentiful: "I just don't have the time," for example, or better yet, "Books are too expensive." If you nodded your head to the latter, perhaps you should consider book sharing or various other online reading resources -- sort of like the library, but a bit more high-tech. An added bonus: These websites tend to promote an eco-friendly message, so you can feel good as you save both money and trees.
Book Sharing Sites. Book swapping is by no means a new concept; other countries -- the UK is a prime example -- have adopted fun and innovative ways to trade and share their used reads. However, running all over town to track down a book can be time consuming, so check out book swapping websites instead. For those of you who savor the unquestionable scent of a book, the feel of a textured page between your fingers, or the elaborate cover art that draws your attention to an otherwise mundane shelf -- or those of you who just want to impress friends or a special someone with your vast collection of Dostoyevsky -- these sites will meet and surpass your thirst for literature.
BookCrossing: With a subheading of "The books you read and the people you meet," BookCrossing is a way to connect, as well as a book swap, with fellow bookworms. BookCrossing is international in scope, including books from over 45 countries, but the U.S. offers the second-most number of books shared.
BookMooch: This website is for those bibliophiles who have disposophobia and leave books gathering dust particles on their shelves. This site's motto is "Give books away. Get books you want."
Bookins: This site offers DVDs and audio books, too. If shipping your books is a concern, they also offer free postage, printable from your home computer.
Swap.com: Not exclusively for books, this site is a virtual swap meet of everything from juicers to ukuleles to skydiving tickets. If you have an item, post it and see if another person will swap your desired item for theirs.
Free eBooks. Under 1978 copyright laws, the books on these websites are part of the public domain. If the U.S. still followed pre-1978 copyright laws, imagine the other books that could have entered public domain this year!
Project Gutenberg: This website's founder, Michael Hart, invented the eBook and created Project Gutenberg to distribute literature over the web. With a catalog spanning over 36,000 free eBooks available at your keyboard fingertips, Hart's legacy (he passed away last September) is doing what Johannes Gutenberg intended to do 532 years ago -- make the printed word accessible to the masses in the digital world.
LibriVox: For audio books, look no further than this website. You likely will not find new releases or bestsellers here, due to copyright infringement laws, but if you're in search of older literature (for example, the works of Joseph Conrad), LibriVox is your audio haven.
Applications. iPhone and iPad owners -- generally, those who belong to the iFamily -- should bookmark these book-related applications.
BookCrawler: This app organizes the books you read and keeps track of authors and genres that interest you -- perfect for avid readers who experience amnesia when prompted with the questions "What books are you reading?" and "What books do you recommend?"
Lendle: Lendle.me is the URL at the top of this page, and lendle you shall. E-readers are a highly viable and portable means to read, so this app meets a user's need to share books via her device. The drawback: The service seems to be solely available in the U.S. and on Kindle or Kindle-compatible devices.
What book sharing websites or apps do you recommend?
Photo by Your Secret Admiral (Flickr)
About Tamar -- I'm a recent Wellesley College grad with a degree in English and studio art. I grew up in the Midwest and briefly lived in Europe and the Middle East. My name is often mistaken for Tamara from "Sister, Sister." I love exploring coffee shops and am almost always highly caffeinated. I am very interested in films, the arts, theatre, painting, photography -- you name it -- '90s TV shows, and music.
The author is solely responsible for the content.