Somebody stealing and re-selling books from the teeny-tiny free libraries of Jamaica Plain?

Some are beginning to wonder, Jamaica Plain News reports.



    Free tagging: 


    Not much one can do about it.

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    The books are free. Whether this guy is selling them or is just a voracious reader is not known.

    Unless one wants to restrict how many (and how do you enforce?) one takes but that takes away from the "free" aspect.

    We stamp our LFL books with a

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    We stamp our LFL books with a stamp that says "Always a gift, never for sale." I typically put it on the inside cover and on the title page. The Book Thing in Baltimore had the same problem awhile back, and had to start stamping their books too. It probably doesn't completely dissuade people from trying to sell them, but even then I figure, hey, the books are still getting circulated and loved and are probably still pretty darn cheap. Not great, but I'll take that over someone vandalizing a LFL any day.

    I see my LFL as something like a community vegetable garden. If someone took all the tomatoes and sold them, that's kind of a douchy thing to do, but I have to have some sympathy, because that might be their only idea for how to get some money right now.


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    Are people that naive to think the books wouldn't be stolen?

    The article did answer my question

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    How can you steal something that's free?

    Well, by taking them all and re-selling them. As noted above, legally, it might not be theft, but it is kind of douchey.

    Are people that naive to think that...

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    there's a lucrative market for used books?

    I'd be about as pissed off at someone stealing books from a LFL as I would about the person "stealing" empty cans from my recycling bin. Like...if you need the money that bad then God bless you.

    Are you serious?

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    Guess you've never visited brookline booksmith, or brattle street books, or commonwealth books, or raven's, or rodney's or any of the five gagillion boomerangs, savers, et al thrift stores in the immediate Boston area.

    People around here read a lot. So yes, there is a lucrative market in used books.

    And your attempt to draw a parallel between empty recyclables and books is flawed. The books are there to share, not as garbage. If this is actually happening, it's not a case of someone being a frugal scavenger, it's someone who is depriving people of a resource made available for the entirety of the LFL's neighborhood.

    I apologize for my flawed comparison.

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    And uh...yes, I read. But the average quality of LFL books isn't generally what Brookline Booksmith is looking for, not consistently anyway. It would take some concerted effort to skim out the decent quality paperbacks to get enough to resell. If it starts happening at my local LFL I'll be pissed but again...I just can't see this being a really solid business model for all but the most desperate.

    If someone took a few books

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    If someone took a few books and sold them I think that would be very different than taking all the books and selling them.

    If someone takes all the books and leaves it empty every time that means other people are going without books.

    It would be the same situation if someone took all the books just to take home... the LFL is supposed to operate like a library not a wholesale distribution channel.

    Not a lot of resale value

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    I'm not sure what the motive of this could be. Unless the book is a very popular title or rare book or first edition of some sort (and to be honest, I haven't seen a lot of those in little free libraries), there isn't a lot of resale value in most books of the type found in little free libraries.Even thrift shops sometimes limit the amount of books they will accept as donations as they are overflowing with them. I do like the idea of marking the book with "always a gift-not for resale" or some such. It won't prevent the "theft", but it might add to the guilt factor.


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    One of the ways to make money selling low-value books is with volume and logistics. Cheap storage, and either you have a cheap lease on retail space, or you automate keeping large numbers of books listed and you use low-cost shipping to fulfill orders.

    Another way is to flip them immediately, for a very small amount of money, to a reseller who can manage the logistics. "I'll give you a dollar apiece for these three, and the rest I'll take off your hands but will break even on."

    There's also hoarders.

    Mark em "property of the jp free library"

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    Done. The borrowing is free, not the ownership. Of course it wouldn't stop thieves, but it puts the next person on notice that they are buying stolen goods.

    Take a book, leave a book

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    I thought the idea of little free libraries was "take a book, leave a book", i.e. there's no real obligation to bring the book back if you don't want to, but it would be nice if you brought another one. That way there is an ever renewing supply of books rather than the same few all the time. That's why it might be better to mark them for gift only-not for resale".

    Leaving one is a good way to go.

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    Contributing to the cause with no expectations is too. But "the same books are always in the box" doesn't seem to be the problem here. There's also the temptation to take a book you are interested in and leave some junk you just want to get rid of and no one wants to read.

    Wait. I walk by the LFL all

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    Wait. I walk by the LFL all the time and have taken a book or two. I thought they were free. Is it stealing if it is free? Anyway, whoever are the witnesses who see this guy, why don't they ask him next time ? What makes you assume he is a used book dealer? Remember, when we ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME !

    You are borrowing the book, on the honor system.

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    It is expected that when you finish the book you bring it back, so that someone else can have it. No time pressure and no late fees. Of course, "ain't nobody lookin" and in the end only your own conscience can force you too comply. Funny, right? (System of the Commons/ Tragedy of the Commons, blah blah blah).


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    How many copies of The Goldfinch and Eat Pray Love are used book stores really taking? I think they're set.


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    But surely they could use a few more copies of The Help and What to Expect When You're Expecting.


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    Just when you thought you had seen the slimmest behavior, someone tops it.

    This is akin to getting free CDs from a band...

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    then selling them to used CD stores. I realize this example is slightly dated, as CDs are going the way of the dinosaur, but it was the best I could come up with.

    Radio stations used to do that

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    Radio stations would request 10-15 copies of albums/CDs from bands and resell them to used music stores. It was very common practice for a while.

    The used book sellers are at Boomerangs

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    Used book resellers are are at Boomerangs on Thursdays when all books are half priced. That annoys me because they grab some of the more interesting books when all books are half priced. But it's a free market and anyone can do it (if they have the time).

    What I've seen at Boomies is a person using their cell phone as a bar code reader or entering the ISBN number to compare, I assume, to a database via their phone to determine whether there is a resale value. Would a person just grab books at a LFL without checking against their database right there? It would be a waste of time for them to take books home only to discover that any given book does not have a resale value (especially older edition text books).

    I've seen this at the Library

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    I've seen this at the Library book sales too. I guess the library Friends group still makes money, so it's a win for them but it turns off other customers from going if they know all the good ones will be snatched up before they get a chance to go browse.