Monday, 5 October 2009

Bookcrossing makes the whole world a library

Up until 2 months ago, I was a booklover with a serious case of hoarding. It was getting to the point of ridiculous - I had just moved to Taiwan and now, with more limited space, I was having to double shelve my books. I was running out of room and I knew that this wouldn't (more likecouldn't) stop me from buying more books. Then it happened. One of the biggest epiphanies of my life, a major conversion - you could compare it to a "born again" moment: my aunt introduced me to bookcrossing.

Oh, sure, at first there was resistance: "You want me to what?! Give away my books? To random people?!" and denial: "I couldn't possibly do that, it's just not me!" but the sight of my groaning bookshelves and the thought of not being able to buy books because I wouldn't have anywhere to put them spurred me to action. "Fine!" I thought "Possibly there are a few books on there that I've read and won't ever want to read again.... Maybe."

After about 2 minutes I realised I had pulled about 10 books off my shelf that I had categorised "Never going to read that again" or "Hmm, what is that book doing on my shelf?!" Maybe there really was something here. Maybe I could clear some space on my beleaguered shelves for future purchases. I plonked down in front of my laptop with this pile of books and before I knew it I had registered myself and the books.

So what is bookcrossing anyway, you might be wondering? The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines bookcrossing as "the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.” But as a short search of the site soon showed me, actually there is a lot more to bookcrossing than just this. The site also provides the forum for those a little shy of leaving their beloved books in public places to share books with others through either direct swaps, known as RABCKs (Random Acts of Book Crossing Kindness) or through bookrings or bookrays – a kind of extended, travelling bookclub where one book travels from one person to the next, all over the world.

The best thing about bookcrossing for me is the tracking aspect of it - every book is tracked through the website. A book that has been registered on the website is given a bookcrossing ID number (BCID) which is written in the front cover of the book. The person releasing the book then makes a journal entry about the book, saying what they thought of it, what their plans are for it and give it a rating out of 10. The book is then released, either in the “wild” - a public place such as a cafe, second-hand bookstore or park bench, or through a “controlled release” as a RABCK or as a bookring or ray. When the book is found or the intended recipient receives it, the releaser is notified by email when they make a journal entry – and so the record continues!

Within minutes I was seriously hooked. Now, after four weeks of it I have released 2 books into the "wild" at the Community Services Center in TianMu, Taipei and sent out 4 other books on controlled releases. This week I'm setting up my first attempt at a bookray. As if this weren't enough, I'm also trying to make the library of donated books in the Community Services Center an Official Book Crossing Zone so I can get more people in Taipei's international community involved in bookcrossing. With the amount of expats that come through there, just imagine where some of the books could end up!

Once my library dreams were constricted to just my own set of shelves but now I'm coming to embrace a bookcrossing motto - that the whole world is a library and if you truly love a book you set it free. If you find a bookcrossing book out there - check it out and sign up. It's a serious fun!

Image credit:


  1. I bookcrossed maybe ten years ago, but no one played along with me. If my books were ever discovered, no one followed up.

  2. Hi Caroline,

    Thanks for your comment! It's a pity nobody ever made a journal entry for your books! Have you checked back recently? Perhaps someone has by now!

    Mind you, I have to admit I'm more of a bookring/bookray fan - that way I know where the book is going and that people will journal it!