At home, the pace of sorting through our curated collections of stuff, marking for donation that which no longer serves, continues unabated. Though my wife and I are both avid readers and highly value the library we have amassed, these tomes do still take up a sizable amount of real estate. We are transitioning to a new phase in which we make more extensive use of our local libraries to borrow books and movies, as well as web based digital distribution of audio and video media, instead of continuing to add to the shelves. We look forward to maturation of the e-reader market, but are waiting for the emergence of a dominant standard (preferably an open standard) for digital books before committing to a device.
In the meantime, we have become frequent users of swap.com, using the online bartering platform to give our books second lives in the hands of other eager readers. In return we receive books on our own wish list. The cost of the entire transaction consists of a few dollars for shipping, depending on weight, and a quick jog over to the post office.
Platforms like Swap, eBay, Amazon and Craigslist have given many the power to rethink the role of stuff in their lives. No longer do our homes (or our landfills) represent the end point of the commercial cycle for goods. Second hand markets are certainly nothing new, but a dramatic change happens when the market of buyers and sellers changes from neighborhood or town sized to national or international in scope, with real time price information. Suddenly, we have significantly greater control over our physical space and economic health, in a way that benefits our community (big and small) and environment. Welcome to the participation economy.