If You Love Your Books, Set Them Free

I usually think about books and travel, not books that travel. However, I’ve been looking at a Web site called BookCrossing which offers what looks like a useful option for people like me who must periodically purge their piles of books to keep from being featured in an episode of that “Hoarders” show on A&E.

This site allows you to register the books you want to pass on. You put a label in each book with a BookCrossing code and then release it in a variety of ways. You can pass it on to someone you know or send it to a fellow BookCrosser who is looking for that book. You can take the book(s) to a designated “Crossing Site.”  For example, in the Minneapolis area where I live, there are 41 books are floating around, free for the taking, at sites such as coffee shops, a Lutheran church, Eden Prairie Mall, and a Wells Fargo Bank office. Or you can release the book “into the wild,” that is, just lay it around somewhere. Ideally the person who picks it up will see the label, go to the Web site, and register where the book is and who has it. You can also request book that you’re looking for and see what happens.

I’m very big on supporting bookstores and I use the library all the time. Yet, I find this idea intriguing, a way to share books and make contact with fellow readers all over the world, and better than “abandoning” my books at Goodwill or a used book store. (For defenders of the printed book: This is one of the things that paper books can do that e-books can’t.) I haven’t tried Book Crossing yet, but it would be interesting to set up a place to leave books with specific people in mind—children, English language learners, homeless people, moms, soldiers.

It seems like you have to be fairly motivated to get involved in all this, but apparently quite a few people find it worth the effort. The site reports 850,000 active BookCrossers and almost seven million registered books traveling around 130 countries. As one user said, “I can’t wait to see where the books I have read go… to see where the ones I discover are from… (it’s like being on a continual treasure hunt!).

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