bookmooch and gift economies

Bookmooch is a big supporter of the Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project and they give free points (used to trade books on their site) to Pages so we can request books from their users for people in Prison.  Recently, John Buckman, the Bookmooch founder blogged about a proposal for using Bookmooch as an alternative distribution mechanism for independent authors:

Books would be printed “on demand” as mooch requests come in, and we’d pay the postage and printing costs. I’m thinking about using, as they produce photo-book quality print-on-demand books, though the price is a bit steep at $21 a book (plus postage, comes to about $24 a book).

Here’s the “experiment in generosity” part:

  • if you enjoy the book, and can afford it, please tip the author (with paypal).
  • you choose the amount to tip, with a suggestion of $10 (remember, it cost $24 to print and ship)
  • you list the book on BookMooch and pass it on to someone else
  • if you want to keep the book, we ask that you tip at least the cost of the printing for the book.
  • if the book wasn’t that exciting to you, or you simply can’t afford to tip, no problem, but do pass the book onto someone else via BookMooch
  • each subsequent moocher of the book is asked to tip the author

The questions I’d like answered with this experiment are:

  • can an author afford to self-publish and give away books, and make back the investment through volunteered tips?
  • Can peer-to-peer book swapping get a lot more people to read and enjoy a book?
  • Is there more economic value in the life-after-the-first-sale of a book
  • Is this a way BookMooch could help authors?

Link to blog post about this “experiment in generosity”