Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack. -- Virginia Woolf

A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold. -- Henry Miller

Bookcrossing is defined as "the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise". The term is derived from BookCrossing, a free on-line book club which began and encouraged the practice. -- OED

I do love second hand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. -- Helene Hanff

Publishers and authors: listen up! We know you may be concerned about all this book-sharing talk, and what it might do to your book store sales. You may be surprised to know that many, many publishers and authors are big BookCrossing fans. They've seen the paradoxical value in encouraging the sharing of books. In fact, if one were to compare the number of people who buy books based on seeing book reviews here as the books change hands, to the number of people who actually find free books, we can assure you there are far more buyers than finders. This site is not about saving people money. Many of our members, in fact, purchase two copies of every book they like, so they can keep one and release the other into the wild! -- BookCrossing

The unapparent connection is more powerful than the apparent one. -- Heraclitus

A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting. -- Henry David Thoreau

BookCrossing BookCrossing is an interesting concept. Books are released into the wild and their progress tracked through the Internet via a unique Book Crossing ID (BCID).

BookCrossing is reminiscent of the post boxes on Dartmoor. People leave messages in remote parts of Dartmoor. The hunt is on to find them. When found, you may be asked to record your find in a log book. Often when found there is information or cryptic clues to the location of another post box.

I was walking home from the local Post Office, it was a lovely warm sunny day at the end of March, and there sitting on a wall was a book asking to be picked up. It was a BookCrossing book, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. Never one to miss out on a free book, I picked it up and took it home to read.

I came across the concept a few years ago, maybe I read something in a paper or heard it on Open Book, the BBC Radio 4 book programme.

For those with an open mind, BookCrossing is an excellent idea. I often pick up a book or music, that I am unfamiliar with. One takes a risk, but usually one is rewarded with fresh avenues to explore.

I do this with the music or books I like, I pass on to friends who I think will enjoy what I have enjoyed or found enlightening or interesting. I have also taken this one step further, setting up websites on books, music and writers.

BookCrossing free book, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum BCID 4232682 The day after I found The Bourne Identity, I sat down a little after midnight and read the first one hundred or so pages until some time after 4am in the early hours of the morning. It is a fast paced, well written novel. To say more, would be to spoil the plot. When I have finished reading it, it will be released back into the wild and it will be interesting to track its progress.

Finding my first and and until a couple of months later only BookCrossing book, was an interesting example of synchronicity. A friend had mentioned The Bourne Identity to another friend, albeit the film not the novel, I was wishing for a book to read, and a BookCrossing book, The Bourne Identity, crosses my path, asking to be picked up and read.

Within the same time frame, I had been talking to a friend about The Da Vinci Code, which she raised as an interesting book she had enjoyed reading, and I told her of the many examples of synchronicity I encountered on reading the book. She also raised the perverse court case where Dan Brown was accused of plagiarism for basing his plot around alleged historical research. On the day I found the BookCrossing book, the two authors who took the case lost their appeal. [see Da Vinci Code appeal is dismissed]

I had a sense of deja vu and another example of synchronicity, when I found my second BookCrossing book, Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope.

I had bumped into my friend Bobby who used to own and run a very good second hand bookshop. I asked if she had heard of BookCrossing, to which she replied no, but thought it to be a brilliant idea. I then popped into the local library to exchange e-mails with my friend Iva. As I was leaving the library, there to my amazement sitting on the coffee table was a BookCrossing book, Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. Even more amazing, the coffee table was by a coffee machine where I had met my friend Iva almost a year to the day. One year and one day from the day I met her she was returning from the Czech Republic.

I found my first BookCrossing book, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, on a wall in the road where my friend Bobby lives, only a few doors away from her house!

For more on the books found, logged, passed on or released into the wild see my personal bookshelf.

A BookCrossing book does not have to be released 'in the wild' so to speak. You may give it to a friend to read and ask them to pass it on. You may be in the habit of donating all your old, unwanted books to charity shops. Why not register them with BookCrossing first, and then track their progress?

When I have read The Bourne Identity, I will be passing it on as holiday reading, asking that when read, it be released back into the wild.

Hey, that tickles! BookCrossing was created by Ron Hornbaker, a partner in Humankind Systems Inc, a software and Internet development company located in the US. His wife Kaori created the nifty little running book logo on a crossing sign. The project is maintained by Humankind Systems Inc.

It took Ron Hornbaker around three days to design the software and get the site up and running. A press release announced the site to the world.

That was in 2001. New members logged on at a rate of around one hundred a month until an article by Rob Brookman 'Read and Release' was published by Book magazine (March/April 2002). Since then, BookCrossing has been the focus of numerous TV, radio, and newspaper features across the world, and currently gets around three hundred new members every day, has its own category in the human-edited Google Directory, and BookCrossing has been added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as a new word. At the time of my finding The Bourne Identity, it had over half a million members, which increased by one when I registered as keithpp, and almost four million books registered.

In May 2005, BookCrossing won two People's Voice awards in the Webby Awards for best community website and best social/networking website. BookCrossing was also featured in a BBC Radio project broadcast as 84 Book Crossing Road, which involved simultaneous release in London and New York 84 copies of Helene Hanff's charming book 84 Charing Cross Road.

A Canadian tourist in London:

I picked up copy 19 of 84 down by the river below Charing Cross Station. It was quite beautiful. I just wish I could decide whether Helene Hanff was a fictional character or a real character. I can't decide. I'm going to leave it at Heathrow airport - I'm heading off to Paris!

BookCrossing has been criticised by some authors, in particular author of trashy 'chick lit' novels Jessica Adams, as leading to falling books sales, a view reiterated by publisher HarperCollins, who have compared it with music file sharing via the Internet. Setting aside that the music industry cry wolf far too often and like the film industry is greed driven, a trend that is also being seen in the publishing industry with the focus on the next big seller, mega-bucks advances and oodles of publicity, this is clearly garbage. Were it not, then the criticism would equally apply to friends giving copies of books, bookshelves in hotels where guests are encouraged to share their holiday reading, and for that matter public libraries.

BookCrossing is a worldwide book club that anyone can join and its free!

When finding a BookCrossing book, you find more than a free book. You find you are plugged into a worldwide network of book enthusiasts.

A very belated spring clean of the house (with a big thank you to Iva and her brother Karel for their help) has liberated a few books. I am reluctant to part with any books, but feel if they are sitting on my shelves, or more likely on the floor, they are best released so other people can read them. Some are being passed to charity shops, some released into the wild, others are being passed to friends.

I have helped set up or been instrumental in setting up several BookCrossing zones. You will know if you come across them as you will find, or at least will have passed through, books registered by or with a journal entry from myself (ie keithpp).

Farnborough, where my first BookCrossing book was found, hosts several BookCrossing Zones.

Germany is a major BookCrossing location. In Bonn, on the banks of the River Rhine, it has been turned into an art form.

Singapore, the entire country has become a BookCrossing zone, a joint venture between BookCrossing and The National Library Board of Singapore to improve literacy.

Wildeboeken (Wild books) in the Netherlands and Belgium does something similar to BookCrossing, free exchange of books in public spaces.

Re-usable fabric gift bags with unique identifiers may be purchased from Wrapsacks and tracked in much the same way as books registered and released through BookCrossing. The bags are used in place of less environmentally-friendly use once throwaway paper giftwrap.

Seed swaps, are where people swap or exchange seeds, either informally through friends or other interested parties or through seed swap events, the best known being Seedy Sunday Brighton, in Brighton on the south coast of England. The intention being to help maintain a wide genetic base and prevent further genetic erosion. [see Seed saving]

For Iva, a lovely friend who loves books. And for my lovely friend Alissa, who kindly offered to release The Bourne Identity in Moscow.
Books Worth Reading ~ Literature
(c) Keith Parkins 2007-2008 -- February 2008 rev 9