Have you ever lost a book? It has happened to me a couple of times. But have you ever lost a book on purpose? I have not had such an opportunity until a few days ago when our family decided to participate in bookcrossing. As it turned out, there is certain art in losing a book, and the experience worked out to be quite an adventure. Mostly for the books, but we enjoyed it, as well!
What Is Bookcrossing?
Bookcrossing is a movement whose participants are known for leaving a book in a public place, so that someone else can pick it up and read it, then leave it again for yet another person. In an ideal situation, it would mean that the book, once brought into the bookcrossing movement, can travel for years, changing owners around the world and spreading love for reading. Every book participating in bookcrossing gets a unique number, which can be used by anyone who encounters the book to track its journey. Since its launch in 2003, the movement has gathered over a million members who have sent almost eleven millions books out to travel. Its mission is to connect people through books. A very noble goal, indeed!
When I started reading about bookcrossing, I felt a tingle of excitement. While the rules did not ask anything out of ordinary from me, the idea brought an air of adventure. Who knows why! It may be because giving surprise gifts has always been a particular pleasure of mine, and what gift can be more surprising than a gift to someone I have never met! Or it may be because, for a minute, it was fun to imagine what might happen with my books and what kind of people will read them. Whether I will find out about the details or not, there is going to be an adventure ahead, and the world can always use more innocent adventures, right? And kindness, too! Whether a person can afford to buy a book or not, everyone likes getting a surprise gift, and I wanted to give this little pleasure to someone.
So, I explained the rules to my family and suggested that we all send some books to travel and find new readers.
How to Choose Books for Bookcrossing
There are really no set rules, but I can see a few different approaches to making this choice.
1. One can always go through bookshelves and find a few books that do not quite belong there anymore. No one said you could only contribute your favourite books to bookcrossing. Quite the opposite, bookcrossing is about giving books a new life. Someone will certainly like the books you did not enjoy… okay, maybe not your old textbooks!
2. On the other hand, if you have a book that you love very much and want more people to read it, bookcrossing is one way to spread your love for this book. I read that some authors who participate in bookcrossing are fond of sending their own books around.
I am somewhat of a squirrel when it comes to books, collecting them like nuts. I cannot miss a good book when I see one, particularly in a thrift store or a book sale. Later, I find out that I have the same book already, but never despair: they always come in handy when I need a last minute gift! So my options were endless, and I settled on one of my favourite books from when I was a kid. Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson is a delight to read with the family during cozy winter evenings! A couple of years ago, while being pregnant, I read it to my husband and my belly.
My husband, on the other hand, has resolved to asceticism in acquiring books, since all the shelves are already filled with mine. His choice was limited, but he found two copies of the same novel – 20 000 Leagues Under the Sea – and was happy to part with one. It was one of his favourite childhood books, which is how he ended up having two copies.
Budster has outgrown quite a few of the books he enjoyed, so his choice was not difficult. We chose some books that he was not reading anymore, and some books he had other copies of – The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrice Porter, The Hat by Jan Brett and Moses the Kitten by James Herriot.
Now, it was time to prepare the books for their journey.
How to Prepare the Books for the Journey
The rules of bookcrossing are simple, and can be summarized as: Label. Share. Follow.
1. After choosing the book you want to share with others, use its ISBN code or a title and register it at the official Bookcrossing site. You will get a unique code for the book.
2. Either print a label or write the rules of bookcrossing on the first page of the book. Include the unique code. There are free labels for printing on the official Bookcrossing site, or I will be happy if you decide to use the one I made.
3. Leave the book somewhere in public. In big cities, there may be special bookcrossing zones that cafes and libraries choose to open, for people who are familiar with bookcrossing. However, it is a frequent practice to leave books “in the wild”: on a bench in a park, by a vending machine, or in a tourist spot. The bookcrossing site recommends avoiding places with high security like airports, but other than that, the possibilities are endless. It is a good idea to pack the book in a transparent plastic bag, in case of the bad weather. To attract the attention of potential readers, the bookcrossing site sells plastic bags that have “FREE BOOKS” written over them. We made our own version by printing this sign.
4. Once the book has been found and registered, you will get an e-mail notification. You will keep getting them every time someone finds your book in the future.
Time for an Adventure
It is likely that we will never know what has become of the books that were once ours. But it is not necessarily a bad thing. It leaves everything to our imagination, and from my imagination I can tell Buddy a story of how his book got to travel to China or ended up being read by the Queen. Or I can tell him how his book made someone very happy. And I hope it did.
So, next time you go through your bookshelves and find a few books that do not have a chance, think of bookcrossing! It is only a few clicks more difficult than donating a book to a library, yet it is a completely new experience. It makes you into a mix of a fairy and a ninja as you secretly place the book somewhere in public and then carefully sneak away!
This post is a part of 100 Acts of Kindness Challenge hosted by Toddler Approved and Coffee Cups and Crayons. If you are interested in finding more ideas on how to fill this month with small acts of kindness towards your family, friends, community and even strangers, check this page.
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