Free Books, but No Takers
I've been experimenting this year with a new book-sharing network called BookCrossing. So far, despite my best -- my family would say, "fanatical" -- efforts, the experiment has been a complete failure.
BookCrossing bills itself as the world's largest book club, with 762,824 members in over 130 countries. (About 40 percent of them are in the United States.) The idea, conceived by Ron and Kaori Hornbaker in 2001, is seductive: You sign up for free on their (annoyingly busy) Web site and register as many books as you'd like. Each book is assigned a unique 10-digit ID. Then you leave your books around -- "on a park bench, a coffee shop, at a hotel on vacation" -- and track their travels from reader to reader across the globe. "What happens next," the Web site claims, "is up to fate." Let's hope not.
Members have registered more than 5 million books.
In the cute terminology of BookCrossers, I've "released" about two dozen books all over the DC area: in Starbucks, Cosi, Corner Bakery, Kinko's, Caribou, Panera, on the Metro and on park benches. I even sprinkled a few between here and St. Louis on our recent vacation. These have all been brand new, hardcover books: some sophisticated novels (Siri Hustvedt's "Sorrows of an American"), some light bestsellers (Adriana Trigiani's "Very Valentine"), and some pop nonfiction (Alyssa Milano's "Safe at Home), and everything in between.
Over the past four months, no one has ever registered picking up one of my "traveling" books. Their "fate," as it were, is a mystery to me.
And I've done my very best to make this relationship work. I've tagged my released books with official (and overpriced) BookCrossing registration book plates. I've tried to attract attention to my books with official BookCrossing "I'm Free!" Post-It Notes. I've even placed them in official BookCrossing "I'm Free" Ziploc Bags. In other words, I've spent a few bucks trying to make this "free" book exchange program work in one of America's most literate cities.
Would some of you 762,824 members please tell me what I'm doing wrong?
By Ron Charles |
April 15, 2009; 5:29 AM ET
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