Thursday, 3 December 2009

Wild Release - Losing My BookCrossing Virginity

Whilst avidly reading the latest Good Reading magazine I stumbled across an article about culling your bookshelves. Initially I wasn’t going to read the article, after all the owner of a second hand book shop could only be comfortable with donating unwanted books to said book shop. Or could she? Lured by the heading ‘’If you love something, set it free”, I read on.

The article mentioned all the usual suspects including donating to charity, selling on e-bay, at markets and to second hand book dealers, and sharing with friends. But it also recommended the idea of BookCrossing, defined as ‘’the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others”. My interest peaked.

The concept itself is not new to me, but I am a BookCrossing virgin having neither taken part as a releaser or a catcher, and to be frank the fact that a dedicated online community to this practise existed was definitely a surprise. The BookCrossing website ( plays host to almost 1 million people and is currently tracking over 6 million books generating a hotbed of delightfully positive book karma. Excited by the prospect of one of my books travelling the known universe I decided to take the plunge.

Getting started is easy and, more importantly, it’s free. I began by setting up a basic personal profile. The website has many functions but I went straight to what is termed releasing a book. Here I got stuck. What book to choose? I couldn’t bring myself to let go of a treasured favourite, but was it good book karma to release a book that I didn’t enjoy? I wrestled with this decision for all of ..... three seconds, before rationalising that just because I loathed the book another person might indeed love it. Thus, The Jane Austen Book Club (by Karen Joy Fowler) was nominated for the chopping block. I loaded the book details, wrote a brief review, and got my BookCrossing Identification Number (BCID number). Then I chose my method of distribution. You can select from Wild Release or Controlled Release. Controlled Release is where you leave the book for a specific person whereas Wild Release is totally random. Trusting in fate I selected Wild Release then proceeded to enter the details of the drop point. This function is quite specific and can be narrowed down to precise shop fronts, longitude and latitude, and even an exact time. I chose Coffee Affair, a small independently owned coffee shop, in the busy shopping district of Erina, NSW, Australia at 12pm – just in time for lunch. I then printed off a label highlighting the website and my BCID number and stuck it inside the front cover of the book. So far the process had taken me all of 10 minutes, but the best part was to come.

As I walked out of my office door to despatch the book, I was overcome with a rush of excitement and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. There was a spring in my step. I quite honestly felt like an actress in a movie on my way to some clandestine rendezvous. As I made my way to the cafe my mind planned ahead. I surveyed the area for watching eyes, figured out the safest approach route, and spied my target table. Then as inconspicuously as possible casually placed the book at the drop point. It defies explanation, but for some unqualifiable reason the simple act of leaving a book in a public place felt completely liberating and mysterious.

Walking away from the coffee shop I envisaged a fellow book lover like me settling down for a lazy lunch and discovering my gift. Fleetingly, I also wondered whether the waitress who next cleaned the table simply threw it in the trash. Brushing my cynicism aside, I chose to believe that serendipity would prevail placing the book into the hands of a worthy someone who would not only appreciate the book, but also the value in the act itself. Now the waiting game begins. Cross your fingers for me and hope that whoever picks the book up will log on to the website, start their own profile and record their thoughts, before continuing the cycle of life and letting the book roam free in the wild once again. I’ll keep you informed of my book’s progress, but in the meantime I am back on the BookCrossing website setting up my hunting profile so that I can catch myself a wild book.

Visit my profile at by searching under the screen name AmberX.