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BookCrossing – A Fun Way to Promote Literacy

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 6/5/2009

Part of the joy that comes from reading is being able to share and discuss books with others. The founders of BookCrossing have come up with a fun, unique way to share and track books with people from all around the globe.

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    If you’re an avid reader who likes to share your thoughts on books, as well as the books themselves, you may want to consider checking out BookCrossing. Since 2001, BookCrossing has continued to grow its mission of "making the whole world a library.” The online book sharing community now boasts over 700,000 members from more than 130 countries. In September 2008, a huge milestone was achieved when the number of books registered through the site passed the 5 million mark.

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    How Does BookCrossing Work?

    The basic premise of BookCrossing is a fairly simple one. For those who want to “release” a book, just perform the following steps.

    • Take any book that you own and wish to share, and register it at the BookCrossing web site. Upon doing this, BookCrossing will assign a unique ID to the book.

    • Write this ID and some basic information about BookCrossing inside the front cover of the book.

    • Release the book by passing it to a friend, donating it to charity, or simply leaving it in a public place such as a bus station or onboard an airplane.

    With any luck, the person who picks up the book will return to BookCrossing and make a journal entry letting others know that the book was found and enjoyed. Since each book is assigned a unique ID, it’s possible to see a complete record of the book’s travels through the BookCrossing journal system, assuming that participants take the time to make an entry.

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    Hunting for BookCrossing Books

    When BookCrossing members release books “back into the wild” by leaving them in a public area, they are encouraged to leave notes about the release on the web site. While these notes may only contain basic information such as name of the book, date and time released, and the place the book was left, it’s enough data to go out and look for the books on your own.

    This form of scavenger hunting for books can be great fun! You can search the list of released books by geographic location, picking areas close to home to visit and search. If you are lucky enough to find one of these books, don’t forget to leave a journal entry at BookCrossing. Tracking the book’s journey is a large part of the fun, and that’s the reason why many people choose to become involved with the site.

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    Tracking Books

    According to BookCrossing, only about 20-25% of released books have updated journal entries, letting original donors of the books know who found them. That number may seem low to some, but I was pretty impressed by it. Since there’s no obligation for people to report back in that a book was found, I would have expected this number to be much lower.

    There are no fees associated with participating in BookCrossing activities, and the site’s owners have stated that they have no desire to change this despite increasing maintenance costs. The overall goal of the site is to promote literacy and have fun while doing so. However, if you are a fan and want to contribute in some way, the site does operate an online store and accepts donations through PayPal and Amazon.