Label. Share. Follow. That’s how bookcrossing.com describes the process of setting your book free to go out and explore the world while you follow it’s adventures, the places it goes and the people it meets from the comfort of your home. According to the Book Crossing website almost seven million books have been registered by over 850,000 active BookCrossers and are traveling around 130 countries as I write.
The way it works is that each book is tagged with a label recording its unique Book Crossing ID (BCID) and starting location. The books are then shared, either being passed onto a friend or stranger, mailed to a Book Crossing reader who’s advertised for that title, or released ‘into the wild’, for example, on a park bench, a café table or at the train station. They can also be taken to Official Book Crossing Zones where books are regularly caught and released.
When your labeled book is ‘caught’ the finder enters its BCID into bookcrossing.com to find out who released the book and where it’s previously been. The finder can then record a journal entry telling the next stage of the book’s story. In this way you can find out where your book is, who’s reading it now, and follow where it goes next. Leave your book at an airport and it could cross continents!
Of course, theory is all very well but practice is what counts so I set out to catch a bookcrossing book. I chose my quarry carefully, discounting books that had been released on the tube or park benches as I couldn’t believe they would last more than a few hours in these locations. Eventually I settled on hunting down a book at the Camel and Artichoke pub behind Waterloo station where 89 books were listed – suggesting that I had a good chance of finding one!
I entered the pub and casually browsed around as if I was looking for a friend. And there, at the top of the stairs was my target. Four book shelves all stuffed with books. They were even spilling onto the floor. There was a wide variety of authors, topics, even languages (Simone de Beauvoir in German anyone?) but I finally settled for revisiting my childhood with The Silver Chair by CS Lewis.
Returning home and entering its BCID into bookcrossing.com I discover that Lydiasbooks left it in the Camel and Artichoke as she had a duplicate copy. It’s been there about a month and I am the first person to pick it up.
My plan was to complete my bookcrossing experience before writing this post by releasing my book back into the wild. However, I kind of feel like re-reading The Silver Chair now. Perhaps this is how bookcrossing works. Serendipitous and random sharing leads to serendipitous and random reading..