Your personal bookshelf just got a little bigger and expanded to include a community of bookshelves. That's the concept behind Book Square, a startup online service that allows book lovers to peruse the libraries of their neighbors and buy or rent their desired titles.

Launched just a few weeks ago by San Ramon resident and tech professional Sharad Gupta and partner and co-founder Pradyot Rai, a product design expert, Book Square "allows local book lovers to share their books with each other," said Gupta. Book Square is a place to gather together, socialize and exchange ideas and an interest in books.

"We believe that such social sharing of books not only generates value for local book lovers but also increases the overall book readership in local communities," he added.

The immediate goal, says Gupta, is to raise awareness about the service in the San Ramon and Danville neighborhoods and test the concept before rolling it out in other communities. Gupta said the concept is simple: a person registers at www.myBookSquare.com, lists the books he has available and sets his own price to sell or rent the titles.

Online payments are made using PayPal. While there is no fee to register with the site or for creating online bookshelves, says Gupta, there is a 20 percent transaction fee for each sale or rental. If the seller or renter donates their proceeds, for example to local schools, Book Square will waive the 20 percent transaction fee and add that 20 percent to the school or organization. Buyers and sellers do have to arrange to meet to exchange the books, said Gupta.


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"Generating awareness about this online service" and "encouraging users to create their online bookshelves" are the immediate goals, he said. "Within the next two to three months, the goal is to have at least a few thousand books listed on our site for local exchanges."

While many of us still reserve books online, trek down to the library or rent eBooks for our Kindles, Gupta says the Book Square service is better.

"In our initial market research, we have heard that it is not easy to find popular books in local libraries due to their limited number of copies and the length of wait time involved," he said.

The San Ramon library carries only a handful of copies of a popular title, but there must be at least a few dozen copies sitting on your neighbors' bookshelves. For more information about the online service visit www.myBookSquare.com or call Gupta at 925-219-0842.

Contact Monica Lander at landerfamily@comcast.net.