BookCrossing has a simple idea: share books. With strangers if you can. Leave a book at a café, on top of an ATM, the train station — anywhere that someone else might find it. That person reads the book and releases it into the ‘wild’ again, after letting you know where she found it and what she thought of it. How’s that for novelty?
Before you ‘release’ your book, log on to bookcrossing.com and register your book. The website gives you a BookCrossing ID number, which you write inside the book, along with a note explaining, in brief, the idea behind setting your book ‘free’. The finder then logs on, types in the ID number and gets a history of the book’s ‘journey’. Finally, the finder records her thoughts about the book before she leaves the book in yet another public place and allows the voyage to continue.
BookCrossing claims to be ‘the world’s largest free library’ — with ‘free’ referring not to what the readers pay, but what the books do — run free.
One joy of joining the BookCrossing bandwagon is the pleasure of knowing that your book travels to strange, unexpected spots around the world (Even so, don’t leave the book at an airport, because it may be regarded as a security risk).
The rules: while releasing books that belong to the library is not allowed, BC does not even demand that you read the books you release. The rule ‘one book, one ID’ is strict but it’s not exactly something out of 1984. Of course, there are problems. By their own estimates, only 20 to 25 per cent of books that are released are ‘caught’, i.e., found and recorded. So there is a good chance you might never know what happened to your copy of, say, Northanger Abbey.
You could also get, as BC points out, “an email notification five years from now, letting you know that someone has made a journal entry in one of your books. And that someone might be halfway around the world”.
So how do you make it clear to people that your book is a traveller and not something that you accidentally left lying around? BookCrossing sells stickers (which you can make with paper and glue) that simply say “This book isn’t lost. It’s free.”