It's great to have a child who loves to read, but the cost of books can add up quickly, especially once elementary-school-aged children begin to read book series. Libraries are nice option, but if they are not conveniently located or part of a regular attendance routine, overdue or lost book fees can rival the cost of the books. My solution to this problem for my fast-reading 8-year-old daughter has been swapping books online.
Through book swapping (assisted by some judicious thrift store luck), I have been able to supply my daughter with the entire Magic Treehouse Series, the Harry Potter books, and literally dozens and dozens more of the books that keep her busy. I have saved hundreds of dollars on books I would have otherwise purchased through the school Scholastic catalogs. I am able to keep the books on hand for my younger daughter to "grow into," and when she is through with them, I am able to give them a second life while fulfilling the same need for another child.
There are numerous book swapping sites, and each of them work a little bit differently. My three favorites are PaperBackSwap.com (PBS), BookMooch.com and Swap.com (formerly Swaptree.com). All three of them involve users paying the postage for books they send out to others, but not paying postage for books they are receiving. PBS and BookMooch work on a point balance where users get a credit for each book they send that can be used to request books, and Swap sets up 2- or 3-way trades so that users only send an item when they are also receiving an item. All three allow users to request currently available items as well as set up a wishlist of books they want that are not currently available for request. PBS and Swap have built in postage options that make mailing books from home especially easy.
At current postal rates, books less than 7 ounces (which includes many children's books) mail first class postage for $2.24 or less. Books over that weight usually mail in a special class called Media Mail for less than $3. So that is the "cost" of a credit. So if there is a common, discount book on Scholastic, Amazon, a used bookstore, etc. for less than $3, it might be a better choice to just buy it there. But for more expensive, recently released, older or hard-to-find books, swapping can be a great option.
If you think swapping might be for you, see my related articles, "Swapping Children's Books – A Valuable Choice," and "Book Swapping for Parents and Kids" linked below, or check out my favorite sites below (PBS is a particularly good one to start with for first timers.)