Remember Books?


Sure you do. You probably still use them sometimes.

BookCrossing.com is a community site that organizes people who love books to share them.

The word bookcrossing actually was added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in 2004 as a noun - the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.

The world as library.

They have 3.8 million books registered and more than half a million users now.

So what's involved?

You read a good book. Decide you want to share it with others by giving it away. You go to bookcrossings.com (free accounts) and register the book and add a little comment about it.

You'll get a unique BCID (BookCrossing ID number) to put on the book. Most people print out the labels that the site offers and put them on their book. The label says that this is a free book and explains how they can report that they picked up the book and journal it online.

Then you release it for someone else to read (give it to a friend, leave it on a park bench, donate it to charity, "forget" it in a coffee shop, etc.), and you'll get notified by email each time someone goes to the site and records journal entries for that book.

Serendipity takes over. A person who loves to read discovers your book and makes a journal entry. Sometimes, people take them and never make journal entries - that sucks - but at least your book found a reader.

I suspect there are plenty of books that you have at home that they could send into the wild. You hate to throw them out, but even charities sometimes don't want them. I try to use hardcovers when I can so they travel better, but I've done paperbacks too.

Here's a sample tale from my account-

I registered a copy of The Virgin Suicides and released it in 2004 at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Somerville, New Jersey USA.

Then I put my own journal note about it. Someone found it and was good enough to go online and add an entry:

"The book lay on the folding chair for quite some time, unclaimed. People glanced at it, but skirted it, as if they were respecting that it might be someone's property. The poetry reading began, the chairs filled, and I wanted a place to sit down. I hesitated, because I thought it might be "saving" the seat. But then I sat down, holding the book on my lap, in case the owner came to claim it. No one did. I enjoyed the poetry reading a great deal. Then opened the book, as I was about to leave, because of the note taped to the cover. I saw that, strangely enough, the book was meant to be taken, and so I carried along with me."


I guess anonymous didn't get to read it for a while...

"October 02, 2005 - I'm sorry I waited a whole year to read this book. This is one of the best "first books" I've read in a while. About the Lisbons, a troubled family of five sisters in a Detroit suburb. The first thing that struck me, aside from the wonderful writing, is the voice. This book is told in first-person plural (as "we"), in the collective voices of the boys who were watching the Lisbon sisters growing up. First time I've seen this since Faulkner's story, "A Rose for Emily," which is also told by a sort of Greek chorus of townspeople, witnessing death, sex and tragedy from the outside. I am going to pass this on through PaperBackSwap.com. There's a waiting list for the book, so I'm sure it will be out traveling into the world again in just a few days."


So it was sent from Mount Vernon, NY to New Hampshire using PaperBackSwap.com.

You can visit my Bookcrossing bookshelf to take a look without having to register.

I haven't used paperbackswap.com yet. It uses the mail to exchange, so there's some mailing cost, but you get the book you want.

I think either of these services could be a good classroom experiment in the social net that still has a hand on good old paper and reading.

Little experiments like this have been done in K-12 classes for years via mail to tie in with geography, journaling, penpals etc. For Bookcrossings, if the account is the teacher's, it seems a safe, interesting use of the Net. Inside or outside the classroom, it's just an interesting way to use your books and encourage reading.


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