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The 36 Book Exchange on Facebook Explained

 Confused by the 36 Book Exchange going around?

Don’t worry, you are not alone that’s why I made this visual.

Maybe you have seen this going around on Facebook, where you send one child a book and your child gets 36 books in exchange. Sound too good to be true? Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s the classic pyramid scheme, if you get in early enough you son or daughter is probably going to get 36 books. If you are late to the game chances decrease as your circle of friends becomes saturated.  If you have a wide group of parents to reach out to then you have a better chance at getting all 36 books. However, if you can only find one or two people you still might get a couple books and if you buy one and get two back it’s still getting more than you started with, right?

36 Books

The 36 Books Exchange Explained

First when you join you will get a message or email that reads similar to this one:


Moms with kids who like to read.

I have one of those cool book exchange things going where you buy 1 book and then you get 36 books back. Not a scam or anything. LOL

I need 6 people to be in my group. Leave your name and I’ll send you the info.

This is to get the kids reading and keep them reading. Perfect timing with Fall and Winter breaks coming. Imagine their excitement when they get a book in the mail just for them. Okay message me in the comments that you are in and that you can do this. Want in on this? (I’ve already sent the book out to my first person and heard someone has sent 1 book to my kid so can’t wait to see how this turns out.)

P.S. If you have Amazon Prime you can do FREE shipping. Plus clearance books.

So then when you agree to do it you will get a message like this:

1) Send out one book to child #1 below.

2) Remove the child’s name from #1; then move child #2 to that spot.

3) Then add your child’s name to #2 with your info.

4) Then send this info to 6 moms or moms-to-be (or grandmothers!) with the updated name info 5)

Copy the book exchange request that I posted on my wall, to your own wall. If you cannot complete this within 1 week please notify me, as it isn’t fair to the children who have participated and are waiting for their own special books to arrive. A manila envelope will work to mail the book. Or, you might want to order directly from a web-based book service (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), which saves a trip to the post office. Soon your child should receive 36 books!

What a deal, 36 books for giving just one! Be sure to include your child’s name and address (age/sex if necessary). Seldom does anyone drop out because you know children love to read and have books read to them Your child should begin receiving books in about 2 weeks if you get your letters out to your 6 people right away. Thanks & Have Fun! P.S. If you have Amazon Prime you can even get FREE Shipping, making it even cheaper. Plus the bargain books help.

#1. James Witchkins, 621 Orange Pants Ct, Johnstown, FL 34772. He is 11 years old and in 6th grade. He loves Minecraft & he likes scary books (NOT AN ACTUAL CHILD – FOR EXPLANATION PURPOSES ONLY)

#2. Jennifer Poppins, 203 E. Livingston Dr., Chicago, IL 30326. Jennifer is 4 years old and in Pre-K, she loves Princesses and books about frogs. She is alway beginning to read so those books are great too. (NOT AN ACTUAL CHILD – FOR EXPLANATION PURPOSES ONLY)

P.S. Don’t forget: move my kid up to #1 and put your babies at #2 and send to anyone interested in doing this!!! Thanks a bunch!!!

So in a nutshell, this is what you do:

  1. You send a book to child #1 on list.
  2. Then rewrite the script above and you move child #2 into child #1 spot.
  3. Add your child to #2 spot.
  4. Now the list you send to 6 people your child is #2.
  5. The 6 people you choose will start where you started, moving your child to #1.
  6. Those 6 people send their list to 6 people each making your child #1 on 36 lists.

Looking for great book ideas? Check out Amazon!

Sound like fun?  Let me know what you think?

Done one? How did it go?


  1. Thank you so much for explaining the book exchange in a really easy to understand way! I have had so many people ask me!

  2. Lisa, this type of thing is a scam. If you continue your drawing another few levels, you’ll realize it would take billions of people to supply all the books needed. These types of scams are illegal, because only the very first folks make a profit. Google for Ponzi scheme for more info.

    • I think you’ve jumped to that conclusion due to the graphic. If you’ll read, then you’ll see that the “top” don’t continue to “reap the profit” like those schemes. The very first folks “retire” from the tree after receiving their ~36 books (some attrition may occur), and the tree continues until it may one day fail due to attrition. So, if that is what you are eluding to as the last ones don’t “make a profit,” then okay… but these plans are more of a “pay it forward” thing and people tend to keep them going decently well.

      • No, this is most certainly still a ripoff.
        for those 6 people the first person sends to to get their own 36 books, they would need to send to 216 more people. Those 216 people would then have to send to 1296 people to get their own 36 books. (without re-inviting previous participants)
        13,060,694,016… at this point we are double the population of the planet.
        So yes, most certainly the first 4-8 levels of this pyramid COULD get their full 36 books, but its not going to happen. Kudos to the people who can convince a few people to give them free books, but just know, you’re eventually going to screw over hundreds or thousands of people who wont get near the 36 books you did.

        • Have you considered the idea that there are the sort of people that if they receive even just let’s say 6 books (I’m sure a complete failure of the premise of the plan, in your eyes) will be grateful for a 600% return on the 1 book they sent, and may be very likely to repeat/join another plan if they get the chance. But get this, they aren’t even thinking about the percentage return, or the success/failure of the last book tree plan they did; they are just happy to “pay it forward” and help supply books and improve literacy for the next generation.


          • Have you considered its still stealing from the people below you? In the end whether its the level after you get your 36 books or the 12th level, in the end you are stealing from someone either directly or indirectly. Why don’t you just buy your kid 3 books a month instead of stealing?

          • I think it’s more obviously fishy if you rephrased it with just money. You send one person $10 and get up to $360 in return! If someone really wants to “pay it forward” as you say, this isn’t the way to do it.

        • Also, it’s illegal: Snopes.com, a website dedicated to exposing hoaxes, says the practice of gift chains is illegal. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service says:

          “There’s at least one problem with chain letters. They’re illegal if they request money or other items of value and promise a substantial return to the participants. Chain letters are a form of gambling, and sending them through the mail (or delivering them in person or by computer, but mailing money to participate) violates Title 18, United States Code, Section 1302, the Postal Lottery Statute. (Chain letters that ask for items of minor value, like picture postcards or recipes, may be mailed, since such items are not things of value within the meaning of the law.)”

  3. Does anyone else feel uncomfortable posting their child’s name ,gender ,age and home address that is then being shared around to people you don’t even know ? We don’t have a po box number our mailing address is our house address and that is Why I decided not to take part in this

  4. Jackie Whitley says

    This is going to drive me batty.

    Participated in a cookie exchange once. Baked 6 dozen cookies. Came home with 6 dozen different cookies.

    36 only happens if strangers become involved.

    • I believe a chain letter as described by the USPS involve money (cash) and a book does not qualify as such. I could be wrong but reading the law you shared it clearly states CASH – it’s considered a “get rich quick” scheme and no one gets rich by reading – just smarter.

      • Haha! “No one gets rich by reading – just smarter.” Amen to that. I participated in this and it actually worked out pretty well. Thanks for your post on it. I love the graphic!

    • Also, if you read on the article clearly states, “Chain letters that ask for items of minor value, like picture postcards or recipes, may be mailed, since such items are not things of value within the meaning of the law.”

      • But we’re talking about books, not recipes. There are some super cheap books, but many kids’ books are $5-$10. Anyway, one way or another someone’s going to lose out.

      • Yes, because postcards and recipes have no intrinsic monetary value. Books on the other hand, do. You have to pay for a book. They have a specific monetary value and so it is illegal to send them through the mail in this manner.

        This is a pyramid scheme, and it’s illegal. I know it’s “just books” but there are very good reasons pyramid schemes and chain letters have been outlawed.

        How about instead of sending a book, you send that person 5 bucks and then 36 people will send you 5 bucks! You’ll be rolling in dough!

        Sorry your little cutesy book party isn’t turning out to be so innocent, but you really don’t have to double down on the stupid of it.

        • I appreciate people sharing comments and their thoughts. However, there is no need to be snarky. No where in my article do I ask you if you want to send my child a book.

  5. Nobody gets anything without someone giving it to them.

    If you get 36 books, and send one, you have a surplus of 35 books. Eventually, there will be at least 35 people who did not get a book that sent one. They are the victims.

    Imagine a book is a dollar. Eventually, this scheme steals billions of dollars if it is successful.

    The BEST result is if NOBODY does this. For every person who does, 6 more victims are created.

  6. We did this once with stickers. It seemed like fun. I sent 7 packets of stickers. We didn’t get any in return.

  7. Well said, Ben.
    And thank you to Joe. I did the maths too but then cleared my calculator, so glad I could copy and paste it from your comment!

  8. Wow people are really worked up over this. I get it, it sounds like a scam, but really you are just buying one book. So if it’s a scam or not, it’s not going to make or break anyone and even if you don’t get anything back at least you just gave a child a book. Trust me all our money goes to worse places than that voluntarily or involuntarily. The only valid argument I’ve seen here is the concern regarding giving out your and your child’s info. The program probably would make more sense if there was a second tier to it where the books could be recycled amongst parents as the children tire of or outgrow them.

    • Lorraine Kelly says

      I agree , I have participated in it and found it fun to send a child ( yes I know who that child was as it was done through friends ) a book , even if i didn’t get a book back it wouldn’t have bothered me as i enjoyed the thought of that wee girls joy at getting a book through the post
      How ever the books i get back will go to a charity for children this is because i don’t need them as i am 61 years old
      I only did it for my grandson
      You see to me it is not the receiving it is the giving and also I will make sure that the person who send me books gets a book back without me adding my name again
      Stop being kill joys folks and lets start giving

  9. Suzanne Johnson says

    Why is everyone getting so annoyed about spending £4 on a book – who cares if they get one back or 36 u have made 1 child happy to get a new book.

  10. I’m amazed in this day and age that people are so eager to email their personal details along with their kids details around the world on what is basically a chain letter.

    You may know your facebook friends (though lets be honest, how well do you really know them?) but do you know their friends that your details are being passed on to?

    Hopefully you’ll JUST get a book back!

  11. Some of you guys are missing the point. Whether it makes you feel good or not (it shouldn’t), it’s illegal (in the US for sure) for a good reason. Most participants lose, and it doesn’t matter if there are repeat participants or not. It seems like such a small thing, but if you use the mail it’s a federal crime and is punishable by time in prison.

  12. Easiest way to settle all this is a simple phone call or visit to your local postmaster. He can right away tell you if it is legal or a scam.

  13. In any case, it seems like I gave an early Christmas present to a child who just might appreciate it. It doesn’t really bother me if I get nothing in return. I certainly didn’t spend much, and I just hope the child enjoys the book.

  14. Shrinking Violet says

    You are also giving out your child’s name and address to potentially ‘suspicious’ people. You may trust your friend but a friend’s friend? Protect your kids.

  15. Susi Woodmass says

    Use your local library if you want your kid to read. This is nonsense!

  16. SheWhoLoves says

    I spent a total of $2.50 sending a book. We are doing an actual letter through snail mail, which seems safer to me. If I don’t get anything back, at least it helps my karma ?

  17. This is absolutely illegal with the added potential of identity theft—-You are giving 36 strangers your childs name and address with no idea as to what they are going to do with it —the following link is about the same thing for adults. They are just playing on your emotions with the words sister and child


  18. Calm down, folks! you are just buying for a friend’s friend. You only buy one book and will most likely get one back. If you don’t, who cares?
    The people who start it off don’t continually get books forever as their name drops off after those 6 people have sent it.
    Change your child’s name if you like. Leave off what they like and dislike.
    Just enjoy sending a book!

  19. Sheesh, you’d think its almost like one of those home based party businesses that no one seems to have an issue with,
    If you want to send a child a book, then do it, if you don’t, then don’t

    Why do people have to get so upset about it, don’t get involved if you think a free to $10 book is going to put you in jail, who put wifi under the bridges??