Book Crossing, An Introduction by Liz Broomfield

n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.
(added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary in August 2004)

I discovered BookCrossing in August 2004. I was moving some of my rather large collection of books into storage, when I came to an acceptance that I probably wouldn’t be needing some of them (the English degree texts, the books in French that I can’t read…) again. So I asked various friends what I should do with them, and a couple of people in a Yahoo group I’m in suggested that I could pass them on; share the karma of good books.

A membership form, a few registered books and a London meetup under my belt, and I was hooked! Joining is free, and then you input the details of the books you want to pass on, getting each of them a unique ID number. You write the number in the book, with a message about this being a Travelling Book, slap a sticky note on the front, and you’re away!

The basic idea is to give away your books by leaving them for people to find. On my first BookCrossing day, I left three books around Covent Garden Piazza. Imagine my excitement when I came home a few days later to discover a message sitting in my email inbox – someone had “caught” one of my books! I wondered excitedly where it had travelled – somewhere exotic, somewhere glamorous, somewhere far away… It had made it to Hertford. I left a book on a train in Birmingham when I was house hunting and received a message 10 months later to say it had been released in Goa – only to return to Swindon! Other books of mine have travelled all over the place, to Croatia, India, Australia…

I soon found that there are lots of other activities around BookCrossing, which makes it a lovely, sociable and friendly phenomenon. There’s Trading, where you swap books with people all over the world. Getting talking to people via Private Messages and emails while arranging book swaps, I’ve made friends in Canada, India, and closer to home too. I’ve been able to get hold of a lot of books by authors I can’t find in the UK – and have been able to send people books they’ve been looking for for years. RABCKs are Random Acts of BookCrossing Kindness – a book sent to a friend who needs cheering up. And meetups are a great way to meet like-minded people – many of my closest friends made since I moved to Birmingham were originally BookCrossing contacts made over a cup of tea at a meetup.

And one of the best aspects of BookCrossing, for me, is sending books on BookRings. Just like when you share a book amongst a group of friends, a book is passed on through a list of people. The difference is, that not all these people know each other, and they certainly don’t usually live near each other! My copy of Winifred Otto’s “How to Make An American Quilt” has been to Australia (twice), Canada, America, and Switzerland, and I have a lovely list of reviews to read as it continues on its travels. And I’ve just sent my first Transita read, “The Dangerous Sports Euthanasia Society” to a BookCrosser in Canada, on the first stage of a mini world tour.

By the way – publishers and authors tend to love the site. I know of several BookCrossing authors, and they really like to read reviews of their books. I wanted to spread the word about Transita to my BookCrossing chums, and what better way than to send round a book with a note on the associated web page listing the Transita web address and extolling their virtues!

If you want to read books by authors you’ve never tried before, give a book to a stranger and make their day, share books you love, meet a wonderful bunch of people from all over the world – then BookCrossing comes highly recommended.

Click here to go to the BookCrossing website.






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