Hear ye, book lovers all — www.bookcrossing.com

Another jewel from the treasure chest of my internet voyages. I came across this website pretty long ago, about two years ago actually, and I registered myself as well, and released one book — Maximum City by Suketu Mehta. The concept of the website is pretty new and seems a bit odd at first. It actually takes a while to grow on you. The website was started by a certain Ron Hornbacker and his wife in 2001. The objective of the website is to track an object by means of figuring out who it is with. In the website’s case, the object happens to be a book.

This is how it works:
1. You register your book on bookcrossing.com. Registration requires entering the book’s ISBN code (each book has one) on the book registration form and filling up other details like name, author, etc. The website gives you a BCID (Bookcrossing ID) code. Then one writes this code and a small note in the book to this effect.

2. Pass on the book to someone you know, or give it off to charity, or leave it in a park where someone can find it. Once the book’s left, one makes a release note on the website proclaiming that the book is ‘out in the wild’. The ides is to get the book traveling.
3. When someone finds the book, the note tells him to go to this site, enter the BCID code and make a journal entry saying he’s caught the book from so and so place and basically update the status of the book, adding in his own two bits. Once he’s done reading, he will pass it on to someone else or release it in the wild again hoping that the next person will read the note and make a journal entry on the website.

4. During this whole process the original owner of the book and all the others who ‘caught’ the book, made journal entries on the website and released it are able to track the book through the website. It’s absolutely fun to see where your book might end up!

The website makes this whole process very easy and very creative. Each member gets his/her own book shelf, where one can maintain a list of books and tag them depending on their status. The shelf is divided into sections like books caught, books released, and so on. You get to see which books were recently released, which were recently caught, and you can even search by area to see if someone released a book in your city! (Btw, the website has over 750,000 members across at least 50 countries). You can even interact with the other members and arrange to exchange book. The website is also immensely user friendly and everything is explained in great detail.

*the whole concept of the website rests on a reader’s ability to ‘let go’ of a book. This does not particularly appeal to many people. I have only released books I do not like, and can’t bring myself to release anything else. However, it’s fun. Fun to see where your book’s gone and how many people have read it. The other premise on which the concept rests is a presumption that anyone who finds the book will bother to make a journal entry and most importantly, will pass it on to someone so that the book will keep traveling. Traveling and tracking is the essential purpose of making the book a part of this website. If your finder happens to be a keeper or doesn’t make the entry before giving away the book, then the fun is lost.

Now, the first premise is quite under one’s control, the second isn’t. What the website does, is asks the readers to bear in mind the first premise and ignore the second — quite a
rational approach, considering that the second premise is anyway not under one’s control. The issue however remains: Not many people are rational.

However, the website, still has many members, and quite a few from India as well. The concept, although not entirely new, (WheresGeorge.org tracks US currency notes and Phototag.org tracks disposable cameras) is nonetheless creative and fun!!

Oh, btw, you’ll find the link under web-o-scope.


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