Monday, September 26, 2005

Book sharing program comes to town

You may have noticed, while going about your daily rounds or errands, a book lying, seemingly forgotten or misplaced, in a place maybe where you don’t normally see books. Or it may have posted on it a yellow sticky note, reading “I’m FREE! I’m not lost! Please pick me up, read me, and help me with my journey!” If you do find this, then you have come across a “bookcrossing”, a practice for which a word has been coined, even entered into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, back in August of 2004:

n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.

As a matter of fact, a fact which is registered and updated constantly, as new members join the growing movement, there are now, as of the time this is being written, about 402,920 members and 2,400,032 books registered on a web site founded by a group of book lovers and internet technology professionals, among whom stands Ron Hornbaker, who describes himself as “one of the founders of BookCrossing, an incorrigible serial entrepreneur.”

“We've always liked sites like Where's George? ( This site tracks U.S. currency by serial number)… (which releases disposable cameras then tracks their whereabouts and displays the pictures taken along the way), and (where you can stash and search for items with GPS technology), …so we thought to ourselves, "okay, what's something else that people would have fun releasing and then tracking?" …we thought of books, which made perfect sense, since everyone (well, almost everyone) loves books. Twenty-eight mostly sleepless nights later, on April 17, 2001, was launched.”
In the time that it took to compose the last paragraph, the global membership grew by a baker’s dozen. In Georgia alone, there are about 4,294 members, including 769 in Atlanta, 145 in Savannah, 15 in Statesboro, 2 in Fort Stewart, and 3 in Glennville.
Bookcrossing, as noted above, is a grass roots activity, and what Mr. Hornbaker likes to call a real example of how to ‘think globally – act locally.’
Mr. Hornbaker adds, “The real credit for this site should go to my parents. Both school teachers, they taught me the joys of reading and learning at a very early age.”

If you do find a book which has been registered with Bookcrossing, you may have also found its number, which may be written somewhere on the inside of the front cover, or on the fly page. You may, if you wish, read the book, then send it again on its journey, by recording a journal entry on that book. Enter the URL, the web address of the journal entry page, then enter the BCID number, and leave a brief note so that others will know what's happened to the book. Maybe you're not even interested in the book, and don't plan to read it, that's okay too... you can still express that in the journal entry, along with your intentions concerning the book. Should you finish the book, or get tired of reading it, you are encouraged to pass it along to a friend, or release it into the wild for someone else to enjoy!

Supposing you do release a book, how would you know when someone finds a book I've released? The bookcrossing system will send you an email notification whenever someone makes a journal entry on a book you've released. You could also check your “Bookshelf” page on a regular basis to see all the journal entries on your books.
The percentage of books released which have been caught is a minority so far – about 20-25%, depending on where you release the book, and how well you label it. Mr. Hornbaker reminds us that “we're still very early into this project, and books travel slowly,” since it takes time to read them. He also notes that not everyone has internet access. Although Glennville now has internet access, not everyone may feel that he or she has the time or energy to get to the library, school, community center, or an internet caf? in a neighboring city where they can get online. But he reminds us, “The world is still a better place due to your generosity.
“Think about this: you may get an email notification 5 years from now, letting you know someone has made a journal entry on one of your books. And that someone might be halfway around the world. Imagine how excited you'll be that day, and how much you'll wish you had seeded the world with even more books over that 5 year period. Every released book, just like every message in a bottle and every note in a helium balloon, won't get caught - but the ones that do have the opportunity to brighten a day, initiate a friendship, or even change a life.” This is the portal, or home page, for the Book Crossing website.

The following are the web pages for local bookcrossing groups in Georgia and the Low Country area:


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