I recently discovered a website and community called Book Crossing. It’s an organization that celebrates and promotes the distribution of book as opposed to keeping your books on a shelf at home. The website encourages users to print out a label for the book, register the book online, and release it into the wild! Books can be left wherever the owner sees fit – bus stops, waiting rooms, museums, even the top of an ATM!
Book Crossing also promotes leaving messages for future readers – as an avid supporter of writing in books, this concept greatly appealed to me. Book Crossing is able to connect readers through their affinities for similar genres. There may be a note in your book from hundreds of miles away! This sort of personal connection to people who are outside of our daily lives seems amazing. A simple few words scrawled in a margin allows the words of the book and the words of the reader to transcend time and geographic distance.
This website is in its early stages – as of now, according to their Frequently Asked Questions page, the books that are wandering in the world are being found at a percentage of 20-25% depending on where the book is left. However, it is also stated that in addition to the project being young, there are a number of people without internet access who may have found the book and not logged in to check out the website and that “the world is a better place due to your generosity.”
I adore this concept and am so glad that there is now an organization dedicated to it. One of the main reasons for my love of literature is that it provides a space in the world for diversification of voices and perspectives. Thought fictional, a novel can form a strong bond between characters and readers simply as a result of being true and relatable. The sharing of books and push for wandering literature as opposed to literature on the shelf further enhances the experience and connections made while reading a story – when you read something that has passed through so many hands, you are not only reading the published work, but also the stories of all the readers before you.
Though my discovery was so recent that I have not yet registered on the website, I fully intend to sign up and perhaps send out some dust-collectors on my shelves. Hundreds of thousands of books have already been pushed off to new destinations, new reading cubbies, and new shelves. I am certain that it will be painful to let go of a few in my collection, but it will also be exhilarating. The characters and prose that I’ve held so close for so long will go on another sort of adventure – who knows what may await them at a random bus stop or a park bench. I highly encourage everyone to, at the very least, check out their site. I hope to one day be able to read the books from your shelf.