Always looking to buy your unwanted "Chalet School" books for my collection. Leave a message on my GB if interested, I'm happy to offer cash or a trade for my other surplus books. Let's save some trees and recycle reading matter!!
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Give Some Free Books, GET Some Free Books!
Pass books you don't want anymore onto strangers who will appreciate them
It may be a while if at all before the strangers tell you how and where they found your books and what they thought of them !
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Love books? Have too many books but canít bear to throw them away? Then youíll LOVE this site. Iíve actually been a member for some years now but only recently started to actively use it. Itís a very unusual concept but one that Iíll attempt to explain in this review. Once you get your head around what itís about, Iím prepared to bet many of you will head over there just to check it out, and a high percentage of you may even become members. Itís absolutely FREE and thereís no requirement to spend any money at all if you donít want to.
Whatís It All AboutÖÖ.Alfie?
The website is called BookCrossing and can be found at www.bookcrossing.com. It was set up in April 2001 and it is basically a way of giving and receiving books completely free of charge! Many of you may already be familiar with the American site wheresgeorge.com, where a rubber stamp is used to place a message on a banknote asking users of that banknote to enter the serial number of on a website so that its progress can be tracked online. Bookcrossing operates on a similar principle, whereby readers of a book are asked to log their ownership so that the book can be tracked as it travels around the country and around the world. However, books seldom change hands as often as a banknote, and this is where the Bookcrossing site becomes pure genius.
If youíre a booklover you probably have hundreds of books in your possession. Many of us have books which we have enjoyed but no longer wish to keep, and being lovers of books, we donít want to throw them away, we want others to enjoy them. So we sell them on eBay or give them to charity shops or friends. Hereís the genius of Bookcrossing. Why not give them to strangers? Hey, thatís a bit weird isnít it? Approaching perfect strangers who are bound to think youíre crazy offering them a book and will probably refuse your request? Well hereís the brilliant thing. You donít need to meet or approach anyone. You just leave the book in a public place and sooner or later someone with an interest in the book will come along, pick it up and hopefully read it.
Well no, actually. Most people finding a book will probably think that someone has mislaid it and hand it in to lost property or other authority. Bookcrossing has thought of this. The site has loads of suggestions for marking a book in such a way as to ensure this doesnít happen. These include placing post-it notes on the front saying things like ďIím not lost, Iím a free book!Ē This encourages people to pick up the book, and if they are interested enough to take it home and read it, they will find details inside about why the book was left for them to read and how they can follow up on their Ďfindí at the website.
Before it is ďreleasedĒ (i.e. left for a stranger to find), each book has to be registered at the site. Registration assigns the book a unique registration number (known as a BCID, or Book Crossing Identification Number) and marking the book inside with details of the BCID and details of the website
Pictures of bookcrossing.com
ensures that any finders who are interested enough to checkout the website just need to enter the BCID and details of where they found the book. Finders can also leave comments about where they found the book and what they thought about it after they have read it! So it is possible to track a book and see where it goes, and also see what each successive reader thought of it! Each time a book is logged on the site the original owner will receive an email notification.
So What Sort of Books Do You Give Away, Then?
Well youíre obviously not going to give away prized first editions, but everyone has books they enjoyed but donít want to keep anymore. Books bought cheap at a charity store are an obvious example, as are holiday paperbacks, duplicates youíve acquired as a result of unwanted gifts, upgrading your collection etc. etc.
Where Do You Leave Them?
The site has lots of suggestions for places to leave your books, in coffee shops, bathrooms or pubs, on park benches or in food courts at shopping malls. Doctors or dentistís surgeries are another ideal location. In short, any public place where someone may chance upon it, particularly anywhere where people may have time on their hands, be bored or are having to wait for a person or event. Some members have also donated books to charity shops or jumble sales where they are subsequently purchased. Of course this is fairly risky because there is also the chance that an unpopular book may sit on the shelves of an Oxfam shop for months before getting tossed out for landfill, but it is fascinating to think of ways of getting your books ďinto circulationĒ.
The site also suggests that books left outdoors be placed in clear plastic bags so they donít get wet but so the notice on the front can clearly be seen. Of course, members do not have to leave their books for strangers to find. The site also supports the concept of passing on books to acquaintances or friends, who are then free to join the site and then Ďreleaseí the books Ďinto the wildí if they wish to.
This Is Just An American Thing, Surely?
Well no, actually, itís not. Out of 320,500 members there are over 22,300 members in the United Kingdom alone. Although the site has a distinctly American bias, some of the most active members are actually Europeans. To date the most books ever Ďreleasedí by an individual is 11,652 by an American from Minnesota but some of the most travelled books are actually in Italy. The most travelled book is a volume of poetry which has been recorded a total of 103 times!!
How Do I Join?
Signing up is easy and free and all you have to do is register at the site. The site is secure and others will only be able to view your username, age and location. No one can access your e-mail address unless you record this in your profile. However it is possible to contact other members via a private messaging system. There is no commitment or fee, you can use the site as much or as little as you want.
Benefits of Membership
In addition to registering and tracking books, there are also links to sites where you can download free designs for making decorative bookplates for pasting into the books in order to explain the purpose of the site, record the BCID etc. If you are a particularly creative person, designing your own bookplates or bookmarks on your computer and printing them out on thin card is a cheap and very satisfying way of Ďspreading the wordí.
In addition to the site itself there is a community section where there are forums and message boards where new members can meet others, get helpful advice and encouragement and answers to their questions. It is also possible to refer friends to the site if you think the concept is one they are likely to enjoy.
Membership doesnít cost anything, although members are encouraged to earn Ďwingsí by donating small amounts or by purchasing items in the supply section. Supplies are shipped from the USA all over the world and include Ďrelease kitsí containing pre-printed post-it notes, bags, decorative bookplates and bookmarks to help with marking books for Ďrelease into the wildí and help to publicise and explain the site.
Another benefit of membership is that if you are looking to Ďhook upí with other book lovers and exchange views on books, this is a great site to meet similar minded people. Iíve personally used the site a couple of times to look up reviews of books that Iíve been thinking of buying. If no-one has reviewed the book on Ciao or Amazon, itís a great place to check out peopleís opinions.
Iíve never actually come across any books from this site, although I know there are active members in my town because Iíve looked up other members in my area. It is possible to set up your profiles so that you can receive an email when anyone Ďreleasesí a book in your area, this involves registering towns or cities for which you are interested in receiving alerts.
If you canít check your email every day then it is also possible to look up areas in your town where people have left books in the past, and then make a point of frequenting those areas. In my town one of the most popular areas seems to be in the local park on a bench near the statue of a great benefactor to the town, Andrew Carnegie. Iíve passed this statue loads of times on the way to the play area with my daughter. Rest assured Iíll be paying a lot more attention to the benches around there from now on!!
Iíve also decided to release some books in a location that hasnít yet been listed. Itís a coffee shop where I know lots of the customers are likely to be great readers. Thereís lots of nooks and crannies where books can be left and wonít be spotted by table clearers, and also toilets not generally open to the general public as you have to ask for a key. If my book isnít of interest, hopefully someone will leave it for another person who might want to take it home.
So Why Does the Ideal Appeal So Much?
Well basically I have loads of books which Iíd love for other people to enjoy. I really canít bring myself to bin them, most of my friends wouldnít have time to read them and the idea of recycling them onto other interested readers and finding out what they think of my favourites really appeals. I accept that not all my books are going to end up in the hands of book lovers. Some will get thrown away, others will end up in lost property. But the element of chance appeals to me.
Someone on one of the site forums was despairing the other day because they had Ďreleasedí over 60 books and not one had been picked up and recorded on the site. Other members urged him to keep trying. I personally believe that if you put a lot of thought into where you leave the books, and take the trouble to label them in a fun and informative way, it will increase your chances of success. One woman posted on a site forum that she had left a couple of books in a local McDonalds only to see a cleaner scoop them up and put them Ďunder the counterí without even looking at them because she thought a customer had left them behind. Other members urged the woman to go back the following day and claim them!! I personally thought that McDonalds was probably a daft place to leave books as itís not the sort of place where people go to relax and reflect, itís not called Ďfastí food for nothing. So yes, the fact that you have to put a bit of thought into where you leaves these books also appeals to me.
I think this is a great site and I urge anyone with a love or interest in books to go and check it out when they have time. In an age where the internet is increasingly becoming all about money, itís refreshing to find a site which brings people of similar interests together. The idea on which the site is based which is intriguing and completely free. The fact that people are exchanging books like this Ďjust because they caní and Ďjust for the heck of ití appeals to me, as does the suggestion of bringing pleasure to others for nothing and of recycling well loved books.
No book lover wants to see a good yarn end up in landfill after all, and if these books have been read and enjoyed by someone else, the quality is likely to be high. There is also an element of uncertainty and chance concerning whether you will find a book and whether anyone will find the books you have left, the same excitement as entices people to gamble, but without the unfortunate financial consequences! With internet access now available to an increasing number of people, this site can only become more and more popular, and in the age of cheap flights, there is no limit to where your books will end up.
Since writing this review I'm pleased to say that one of my books which I left on a bench in a Churchyard was picked up! The person concerned took the trouble to join Bookcrossing, and enter details of where and how they found it, which was quite exciting. They weren't local to the village where I left it, either, so it's been travelling around a bit already. They've promised to read it and then pass the book on to others and spread the word. So it obviously DOES work!!
I found some books outside my local play club last summer. The kids really appreciated them - Ang.
psychstudent1 05.04.2006 01:44
I keep meaning to look at this site. I saw a book on a bench in a local shopping centre and wondered if it had been left deliberately, didn't take it just in case the owner came back for it! Great review! Trish x
e.j.kingham 16.03.2006 15:25
Sounds like an alternative form of littering to me.