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Book Swap Colombo

For a completely non-profit venture, ‘Book Swap Colombo’ has been doing surprisingly well. Having lasted a year (and growing stronger each month) the event has survived purely on Colombo’s love for books. Confused? Let us explain.

colombo book swap

How it all began…

A librarian and writer, Chandrika Gadiewasam, was struck with an idea early last year. She wanted to make books more accessible, social and allow bibliophiles to share their love for books with each other. Together with her daughter Nadeesha Paulis (22), the mother and daughter duo have successfully organised ‘book swaps’ at Java Lounge in Thimbirigasyaya each month since April 2014.

In order to garner attention, Nadeesha created the Book Swap Colombo Facebook page, and over the months the event has seen a whopping 60 to 80 book lovers walk into Java Lounge between 5pm and 8pm with books of their own that they swap for books brought by others. The book swap community is growing steadily as new members rock up at every event.

In fact, our interview with Nadeesha was interrupted on several occasions as newbies introduced themselves to her and asked her how the book swap worked. The serenely patient Nadeesha warmly explained the rules to them.

The Rules

It’s quite simple really. You bring a book, two or any amount you are willing to share with others with you to the swap. Once there, you will see a table laid out with books from an assortment of genres, which are brought in by others like you. You can add your book/s to the table, freely browse through the piles, and take home any book that catches your fancy.

Alternatively, you can have a chat with the other community members and swap books directly with them.

If you choose to take a book by someone who would like their book back at some point (it’s about sharing your love for literature not getting rid of books you dislike so some would want their beloved book back) be sure to return it to them once you are done reading it.

Colombo’s Love For Literature

When asked if there are any cases of people swapping books they care little for, for good material provided by others, Nadeesha says not really. “The people who come to the swap love reading and genuinely want to share that with others”, she explains.

The book lovers who come to the swap are of an interestingly vast age group. Nadeesha says their youngest was a 12 year old, but the general age group is between 15 to 70 year olds.

“We organise it between 5pm to 8pm on Fridays because people find it convenient. So after work they come by, pick up a book and head home”, says Nadeesha. The set up seems to work quite well.

As for locations, Book Swap Colombo has been held in other locations over the past year, but Java lounge has been very accommodating and allows the book swap to be held there with no cost of booking.


Sharing some of the incredible book sharing experiences, Nadeesha says “once an elderly lady came by with an enormous suitcase of books that she just gave out to those who came. And more recently some people came to the book swap with boxes of books which they gave out”.

Of course, Colombo’s love for books isn’t just for English literature. In December, Nadeesha and her mother organised a book swap dedicated to Sinhala literature. Their plans for the book swap are expanding. In fact, they recently organised a book donation to the prison.

Book Swap Colombo however, will no longer be a monthly event. Having realised that some folk require over a month to complete reading a book (it’s for leisure after all), Nadeesha and her mother have decided to make it a bi-monthly event. So if you would like to check out the next Book Swap Colombo, have a look at their Facebook page for updates on the next event.

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