I’ve been a member of BookCrossing since 2009. I haven’t used it very frequently since first discovering it, but I blame that on being holed up in a City that isn’t quite as progressive as the places I’ve ended up on my adventures.
The general idea that books are to be shared and passed along is a wonderful notion – bookcrossing isn’t the only initiative that I’ve come across to promote the sharing of books, and I mentioned in another post of my love for the ‘Little Library‘ here in Melbourne. It’s on the corner of La Trobe and Swanston and if you get the chance I highly recommend that you check it out. People drop books off there by the cart load.
The shelves are frequently changing as people move, take, and replace books they find there and every time I visit there is always something new worth taking a look at.
I’ve heard a few people question these initiatives. Doesn’t it damage the traffic in book shops? How are the authors of these books going to be affected because their books are freely available in places like this all over the world?
My own experience has been pretty detrimental to any idea that I might read books for ‘free’. Anyone who knows me is aware of this amazing book I discovered whilst on my first trip to Melbourne. ‘The Awakening‘ by Bevan McGuiness was one of those random finds. It pains me to admit, that the only reason I chose this book over the hundreds of others, was the fact that it had been clearly labelled as a ‘BookCrossing‘ book!
I later met the very man who had gone to trouble of labelling and ‘freeing’ it, and was amused to find out that he’d been given a stack of books from a friend and it was a part of that bundle. (Random chains of events like that are like candy to me! I love it.)
After I read this book I went on a wild goose chase across Melbourne in the pursuit of the next in the series. Every shop I went to told me that they didn’t have it in store, and the ones who stocked ‘new’ books told me they hadn’t had any copies of any of the trilogy in since 2008! It took me a while before I finally checked the last store on my list, and there I put down a payment for it’s deposit.
One book sold. Not just that, but a book that no one else seemed to have in stock. It’s got Bevan’s e-mail address typed out in the front pages and I’m sorely tempted to tell him about the brief saga, but I think it needs noting that had I not picked up The Awakening, I wouldn’t have even considered buying the second (and once I’ve finished it, I’m sure I’ll get the third.)
There’s something else about the Little Library that both amuses me, and frustrates my wallet.
The number of books I’ve come across and picked to read later which turn out to be, not the first in a series, but often the second or third. The Hunger Games is a popular series that I know I’ve ‘needed’ to read for quite a while now. Since being on the special look out for the first book in the series at the Little Library I’ve been teased horribly by not one, but two copies of Catching Fire. It’s a shame that I have to admit my ignorance of the series because at first I believed I had in my hands the first book in the series. :(
I also grabbed a book called ‘Shadow’s Lure‘ by Jon Sprunk, which is the second in a series, AND even more frustratingly came across A Darkness at Sethanon by Raymond E Feist that I picked up because I’ve been told time and time again that I need to read something of his… to learn that it wasn’t the second, but THIRD title in a trilogy was most disappointing. It left me with an troublesome decision to make.
Do I hang onto the books and try not to feel guilty about holding them back from people who might need to have that next title in a series, whilst I buy the titles that I need and then release them together once I’m done? Or do I put them back, stare sadly at them and hope by some miracle they’re still there when I’ve bought and read the others?
Either way. I’m spending money I probably wouldn’t have spent on them, and in a lot of ways, supporting authors I very likely never would have considered before.
No matter which way I look at it, I’ll still try to promote bookcrossing, and the Little Library as best I can. I love the idea, I love the people I’ve met, and I love the books I’ve read. What could be better?