The Art of Darkness


May 16th, 2012 by Cobwebs

BookCrossing LogoDo you have a stack of books that you aren’t likely to re-read? You can do something a lot more interesting than just sending them to the local thrift store.

BookCrossing is essentially a catch-and-release library. The site’s stated aim is simply “to connect people through books,” although reviewers have described it as both “a modern-day message in a bottle” and “an unlikely global sociology experiment.”

Participation is simple: Register a book (it’s free), print out a label with a unique ID, and stick it inside the book. Then release it into the wild: You can check if other site members are looking for your particular book and send it to them. You can give it to a friend. Or you can just leave it on the table in a coffee shop. Whomever finds it can enter the label ID at the site to track the book’s progress, and you will also be alerted as to where your book has turned up.

The site also supports “hunting,” where users who release books into the wild can enter field notes describing the general location where the book was left. Other members can then go looking for it; it’s sort of like geocaching but with less math. You can also register your place of business as a BookCrossing-friendly “Zone,” meaning that site members know they’re allowed to release and/or hunt for books there (which may be an interesting way to drum up extra clientele).

The site offers a lively community of bibliophiles, and has a truly worldwide reach, so you can connect with other bookish locals. It’s also interesting to browse their stats: The top book at the moment is one in Germany that’s made 575 hops so far.

I learned about this site from a comment someone left on an article about the death of Maurice Sendak; the commenter said he would honor Sendak by purchasing a number of his titles and releasing them into the wild via BookCrossing. I think that’s a lovely way to pay tribute to an author.

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