Recently, James and I signed up to ReadItSwapIt, a site that lets users swap books with others, for only the cost of the postage. For us, it seems like the perfect solution: We get to read new books and discover new authors, and our total number of books remains the same. We have, as you can probably imagine, very little book storage space, so the idea of simply replacing ones we've read with one we haven't is very appealing. So far we've swapped four books and are waiting for them to arrive.
But there is opposition to the concept because book swappping deprives authors of sales. This is true, but I have been reading about this on the web, and there are in fact many authors out there who endorse it because it gets their name known, and encourages people who might not have otherwise read their books to try them. I know that if I discovered an author through this scheme who I absolutely loved, I'd be desperate to get hold of all their work somehow, and might even buy them. So I think that it does have its advantages even for authors. The other side to it is that used books are not like pirate DVDs, they have a much greater moral legitimacy, and there is great pleasure and precedent for keeping, lending and swapping used books. And this is reflected in the price, which surely allows for lending and resale. I really don't see any difference between bookswapping and buying from second hand book stores. Also, to be available for swapping, copies have to be printed, and there are unlikely to be more books printed unless more people take a chance on the book than those who want to keep it permanently.
For us though, the fact remains that we firstly couldn't afford to buy books new and secondly, if we decided to buy rather than borrow/swap every book that James and I enjoy, we would have no need for ballast, and the Duck would probably end up sitting on the bottom of the Cam!