Jan 4, 2009

Taking the Plunge into BookSwim

(As of 1/13/2008 I made corrections to this post) 
One of our family gifts this year was a subscription to Bookswim. If you've never heard of Bookswim, think NetFlix for books. We tend to use the library, the kindle and bookstores a lot and one problem we still seem to have is overflowing bookshelves. Any service that lets us read, and keeps the books from piling up is always worth exploring. The selection of books at Bookswim is better than our very nice local library and there are no late fees. Shipping both ways is included in the monthly subscription price. If they don't have a book you want you can ask them to get it. If it meets their criteria they will buy it right away and send it to you. If it doesn't, but they get enough requests they will buy it anyway. In addition to popular fiction and non-fiction I was surprised to find they have quite a number of technical books (in my case .NET, design patterns, C# etc). They also have musical instruction books, which really surprised me. Technical books no longer seem to be available on BookSwim. The service doesn't work quite as well as NetFlix. First, books are more expensive to ship so unless you want to pay extra fees they take about 10 days or so to arrive (in my case they have to get all the way across the country, probably much faster if you live on the east coast). The second issue is you don't always get the top books on your list. This presents a big problem for us because three of us are sharing a single subscription and there is no way to guarantee every person gets a book. They just added a new feature where they do guarantee one book from your list for you next shipment, so that does help. Our plan includes 7 books at a time and we have to return no fewer than three at a time. We just started on the service but we tend to read fast so I don't think that will be a problem. Our first shipment included paperbacks and hardbacks, all in pretty good condition and all with a BookSwim sticker so it makes it easy for us to send back the right books. They do help speed up the shipping process, unlike NetFlix, they don't wait for your books to arrive before they send your new ones. You just log on and tell them how many you've sent back and they immediately ship your replacements. I either misread the section on pledging returns or they changed their policy, but they don't ship you new books until they get your returns. You can also buy, at a discounted price, any books you decide to keep (shhh, don't tell my wife about that feature). I've contacted customer service twice about two issues and they respond very quickly and are very pleasant. One inquiry was about what I perceived as an inequity in their pricing for a paid in advance subscription. They wrote me back, stating they agreed with me, and the price was lowered the next day. You don't come across that kind of customer service every day, so I immediately signed up.

About Me

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Tod Gentille (@todgentille) is now a Curriculum Director for Pluralsight. He's been programming professionally since well before you were born and was a software consultant for most of his career. He's also a father, husband, drummer, and windsurfer. He wants to be a guitar player but he just hasn't got the chops for it.