I signed up with BookCrossing in November 2002, when it was still a pretty new enterprise. The website has changed since then, and the membership and books numbers have grown enormously, but the basics are still the same:
Read a book! – Or not. Some members have been known to buy used books in bulk just to register and release them, without reading them all first.
Register it! – Enter the title and author info (or let their system look it up for you with the ISBN), get an ID number assigned, and record it somewhere in the book, usually inside the front cover. BC has some great labels that explain how it all works, with a space to write in the ID.
Release it! – Give it away in some manner- leave it somewhere random (“in the wild”), send it to a friend, donate it – and note what you did with it in the book’s online record. The receiver/finder can enter the book’s ID number to create a record of what happened to it next. Ideally, they’ll pass it on, that activity will get recorded, and you can follow your book wherever it goes.
My participation in BC has definitely fluctuated over time. I registered books like crazy during my first couple of years (I’m at 266 counting 14 registered today, and – yikes! those are the first I’ve registered since September 2005!), released a few books “in the wild” (most of which are still there, as far as I know), and participated in an uncertain number of book releases by mail, some for trades but mostly just plain old giveaways – those were just easier for me after awhile than searching for likely trades on other people’s bookshelves. I’ve fallen away for a few reasons, mostly having to do changes in my life over the last couple of years that ended up leaving me a lot less time for registering books, writing review comments and delivering them to the post office, and a move that’s caused me to have a bunch of registered books I can’t find! (I think they’re in a big box in our storage unit…)
A private message from a BC member this weekend requesting one of the books I can’t find prompted me to reconsider where I stand on BookCrossing in general. After writing back to the member to let her know I’m not sure where the book is so I can’t send it to her, I did some thinking and decided on a few things:
- First, I disabled private messaging. If I have registered books that I can’t get my hands on, and I have trouble finding the time to get books mailed out, it’s not fair to other members to encourage book requests, so I’m making myself difficult to contact.
- Next, I rewrote my profile to state that my activity had been erratic and would probably remain so, and I added a link to my blog – if anyone’s really determined to reach me, they can always leave a comment here somewhere…
- Third, I realized that a big part of what had kept me away from the BC website for awhile wasn’t really registering books, which takes about a minute – it was the journaling and commenting. But now my book reviews are here, so there goes that excuse! So when I register a new book, I can just enter “reviewed on my blog” in the comment space, which I did for 10 or 11 of the 14 books I registered this morning.
I’ve checked out some of the book-listing and -sharing websites that have cropped up in the interim, like LibraryThing, Shelfari, and GoodReads, but they’re all fairly similar to BC as far as the bookshelf-building aspects, so why re-invent my wheel? The only significant differences are the ID number that BC assigns so that the book can be tracked, and the limits to tagging books.
As far as “releasing” goes, I’m still totally in favor of passing on my books after I read them. At my suggestion, my book club members now bring their recently-read books to our meetings for trades. And I just found the “release kit” supplies I bought a while ago, so I guess I should get started leaving those books around…keep your eyes peeled!