Friday, January 11, 2008

BookCrossing—Friday Feature


They’re black and white, often scintillating and compelling, they’ve travelled from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, there’s more than four million registered, they may keep you awake at night and have even been blamed at times for providing fodder for evil doings... If you guessed books, well you’re very close! But it’s not just books, in general. These are travelling books and BookCrossing.com is my Friday Feature!

…It’s drizzling and cold outside, as you saunter warm and dry in London’s South Kensington Tube Station, awaiting a train that will take you to Earl’s Court Station. You find, lying there on the bench, an inviting bag that says: “FREE BOOK!” with a book inside. You’ve just stumbled upon a book “in the wild”. It’s a phenomenon that over 600,000 people have been doing all over the world with BookCrossing, an international network of bibliophiles who leave books in public, to be found, read, reviewed online and then left for another reader. “I think it’s the serendipity of finding something that someone has left,” explains Heather Mehra-Pedersen, co-founder of BookCrossing. “It’s sort of reverse shoplifting.”

Jennifer Moreau, a reporter for The Record who stumbled upon this phenomenon in New Westminster, British Columbia, explains the simple concept: “find a book, read it and pass it on.” Every book that travels with BookCrossing is marked with an ID number and the address for the BookCrossing website, where you can track your book, once you’ve set it free in the wild—after you’ve read it, of course! When you find a book “in the wild”, you can use the ID number to check out reviews by previous readers, offer your own comments and see where the book has already been. After reading it, you are expected to pass it on by leaving it in another public place. The most travelled book currently is Der seltsame Bűcherfreund/Hoffnung’s Constant Readers (Bookring) by Gerard Hoffnung, which changed hands 293 times.

BookCrossing was conceived by Ron Hornbaker, an American web developer, who was inspired by phototag.org, a website that tracks disposable cameras circulating in public. Hornbaker launched bookcrossing.com in 2001 and has since watched it soar into the 600,000 membership and international status is currently has. The term “bookcrossing” has even made into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Mehra-Pederson says that “the site was created on the premise that the two things that change people’s lives are the people they meet ant the books that we read.”


I’ve joined and look forward to shortly setting some books free in the wild. I don’t have to wait to find one either; BookCrossing.com lists books currently “in the wild”, and hunting data is refreshed every 20 minutes. Membership is free and, according to the website, participation promotes literacy and good karma. I must agree. I look forward to finding some of these feral works of literature, but also to setting some of my dearest titles loose myself. It’s all about “spreading good literature around the world,” ends Moreau. I couldn’t agree more. Who knows?... Where I’m going…well, my copy of Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice might end up in a café in the Rive Gauche of Paris, a bench in the Marienkirche of Berlin or a sushi bar in the west side of Vancouver...

11 comments:

Haddock said...

Just a quick note to say my wife bought me Darwins Paradox for Christmas. I thoughly enjoyed the book and loved the characters.

Will you do a follow up book?

Jean-Luc Picard said...

This is something I've heard about before. A Wonderful modern phenomenon!

Kai said...

That's such a cool idea!

sfgirl said...

Oh, Haddock! Thank you so much for the compliments... and thank your wife for buying it! :)

Cool, Jean-Luc! You know EVERYTHING! :) This is the first that I've heard of it, and, yes, it's a wonderful idea!

Kai: Neat, huh?

What book would you send out into the wild?

pussreboots said...

Happy Bookcrossing. I've been a member since January 2003. It's a wonderful community of book lovers. I'm coming close to having released 2000 books. I'm caligula03 there.

sfgirl said...

AWESOME, Pussreboots! 2000 books! That's an accomplishment... WOW! I have lots of catching up to do and so look forward to it. This is such a neat concept. I will look you up at Bookcrossings.

pussreboots said...

Feel free to PM over there with any questions you might have. :)

rey said...

Greatings from Belgium.

My blog :

http://blog.seniorennet.be/rey

sfgirl said...

Howdy, Rey! You have a cool blog! Thanks for stopping by too. I love meeting new people here.

Haddock, I neglected to answer your question about a follow-up book. Thanks for asking! I have thought of one, but it is not exactly in the works. I have, however, written two prequels! Their publication will depend on reader and publisher interest. I am currently working on a historical (time-travel) fantasy set in medieval Prussia that will take me to Paris and Berlin this spring to research, and I'm looking forward to that!

remi said...

blog.seniorennet.be/rey


Thank you for visting my blog.

sfgirl said...

On a similar note, my publisher, Gwen Gades, mentioned about librarian in Poland, Tadeusz Glowinski, who has collected books from all around the world for his little library. His fascinating story can be found at this url:http://www.thesop.org/index.php?id=7495. If you have books to donate, here is another worthy place.