LibraryElf: Library Overdue Book Reminder Service

I am constantly late at returning library books. While studying at the University of Waterloo I racked up huge fines, often just by being one day late (they would send me an overdue notice the day after they were due, thus incurring $1 per book, before I could renew). I eventually wrote a little python script that would log on to the University of Waterloo's library website and renew books for me (the script ran automatically every night). That worked great for the last year that I was at Waterloo.

When I came back to Vancouver I was also late at returning books to the Vancouver Public Library. I stumbled on a site a while ago called Library Elf that sends me reminders when my books I have taken out from the VPL are almost due. It supports many other libraries as well. It automatically logs into any libraries that you add to your account and you can receive notification up to one week in advance, or every week, by RRSS and/or email. It has worked great for me, except for one time when it didn't send me any reminder. Perhaps GMail thought it was spam, I'm not sure. I might add the RSS option, just in case.

Another neat feature is that in the reminder email, they will suggest a book that they you might be interested in, based on the books you have borrowed. It just recommended a great authentic Mexican cookbook to me that has a 5-star rating on Amazon on 13 reviews!


Book Swapping

I'm not sure why I bothered signing up at when it turns out there are many other sites out there doing the same thing. Some of the other sites have a much larger selection of books as well as different points systems.

The first site was sf-books which trades in sci-fi and fantasy books. I might check that out when I want a new sci-fi book. I don't have a ton of sci-fi I'm ready to give away yet though. has an interesting system. It is a flat rate $3.99 for every book you receive. Sending books is free, using labels that can be printed on your own printer. Alas, when you try signing up, I get this "Bookins does not ship internationally. We ship within the United States and to U.S. Territories." If there was a website like this in Canada that would be great. At the bottom of their pages it says "US Patent Pending." If they didn't patent it in Canada it might be possible to copy their idea exactly. goes a bit like this: "the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise." - Swapping of books, CDs, DVDs and available for Canadians.

There are a bunch more book swapping sites at Wikipedia.

I'm thinking of giving up on and going with for any future books I want to get rid of. It has far more books than (see here compared to which only has 400 or so books). I like's points system better:

Action Points
Add a book to inventory + 1/10th
Give away book (within your country) + 1
Give away book (to another country) + 2
Give away book that's on their wishlist + 1 additional
Mooch a book (within your country) - 1
Mooch a book (from another country) - 2
Acknowledge receiving a book you mooched + 1/10th

I like how you get more points for sending a book internationally, something that isn't accounted for on

Books I've Read

In the queue:

  • Le Compte de Monte Cristo Tome II par Alexandre Dumas


  • A Case of Conscience by James Blish


  • No Logo by Naomi Klein
  • 1919: Six Months that Changed the World by Margaret MacMillan
  • The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham
  • Le Compte de Monte Cristo Tome I par Alexandre Dumas


  • Zero by Charles Seife
  • Farmer in the Sky by Robert Heinlein
  • Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams

First Book Sent Through

I just shipped my first book using What's On My Bookshelf. Unfortunately I had to ship it internationally, to Denmark. On the bright side, Canada Post has a service called "small packets" and shipping small packets by surface mail internationally is really cheap. The book weighted 700g and it cost about $12 including taxes to ship it to Denmark. It will take at least a month to get there though!

That book was worth two points on What's On My Bookshelf, so that means I can get two one-point books in exchange. My first two books will thus cost me about $6 each. That could work out alright.

I still think it is probably more affordable to just give your old books away locally (either to a Salvation Army or a used book store) and then buy books at a used book store. The disadvantage to this is that a used book store may not have a book you want. But this is going to be much cheaper than What's On My Bookshelf, in my opinion. There are several used book stores nearby. We have gone to Tanglewood bookstore before and it was a bit annoying because lots of their book were new or almost new, but the salesman was really helpful.

What's On My Bookshelf Book-Swapping Service

Stumbled upon a great website called What's On My Bookshelf. I think I found it through It's an amazing concept and very similar to the kind of thing that goes on in RoIO (Recording of Illegitimate Origins) groups. You offer up books that you have and want to get rid of and others do the same. You pay when you ship a book, not when you receive, but you have to ship books in order to receive more books. The more you ship (or the more expensive the books you ship) the more you can receive. Everyone starts off with 1 point. I already added three books to my bookshelf (all of which were duplicates after I got married and my wife and I merged out book collections). Each book counted for 1 point so I had 4 points. I then requested 3 books from other people and I am waiting patiently to receive them. No one has requested my books yet although I am sure someone will eventually and I will have to ship them.

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