Releasing Your Books into the Wild...or, The Blogger Who Loved Parentheses

I stumbled upon this online "book club" today at Should Be Reading. The idea of the site,, intrigued me, although I'm not quite sure how comfortable I am with the idea of following through. But then I said screw it, and I signed up. Can't hurt, right? (Right. I was made even more uncomfortable by the fact that I was forced to enter my home address to fully register. Now these potential book-loving Internet stalkers know where I live. No. I must get over my paranoia. For the love of books.)

The basis of the club is "releasing your books into the wild." It's organic, and promotes such a wonderful, communal sentiment. You register a book you own (aka, do not use library books) into your "shelf," at which point the site generates for it its own unique BCID (BookCrossing ID) number. You write the BCID number in ink on the inside cover of your book, and make a corresponding journal entry on If you'd prefer to make labeling more official, the BookCrossing online store offers a selection of merchandise, including labels with the BookCrossing logo. Then, you quite literally set the book free. It's for good karma or something.

The site advocates leaving the book almost anywhere to be discovered, never to be seen by you again...but, thanks to the BCID number, the book can now be used as a roadmap back to the BookCrossing web site. Finders with your BCID can post their own journal entries about the books that are traveling the world. The cornerstone of this site is the "journey."

Being myself, I am full of both apprehension and delightful anticipation. Fueling my anticipation: How cool would it be to actually find a book like this on the side of the road one day? And then it's yours. For keeps. And how cool would it be to see a book you released be discovered by another book lover? Who loved your book? Warm, gushy feelings.

But fueling my apprehension: here's what I don't get. The site advertises itself as earth friendly, what with all the recycling and sharing of books that goes on. Supposedly. MizB from Should Be Reading admitted her books were not being found --or found and written about -- as often as she'd hoped would happen.

As I think more about this, if I did see a random book lying somewhere, like a coffee house or in a restaurant booth (hey, these are good ideas -- chalk 2 more up to delightful anticipation, I guess)...anyway, would I really be morally able to pick them up and claim them as my own? I was raised not to touch things that aren't mine, and definitely thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt turn in lost items at the Lost & Found. Thou shalt leave that alone, that's not yours. Shrug. Maybe I've got the world all wrong. Maybe everyone is just a thieving, greedy bibliophile.

But back to earth friendly. Granted, books are made out of paper, and paper is biodegradable...but ew, what if it rains? No one is going to pick up an abandoned, wet book. Except -- in this scenario only -- maybe me. Abandoned, rained-on books would probably evoke much sympathy on my part, and I would lovingly pick it up, dust it off, and tell it how lucky we both were for me to have found it.

BookCrossing does defend its convictions on its FAQ page:

Q(11): Hey, wait just a minute... aren't you promoting littering here, by suggesting that everyone just leave books lying around all over the place? You should be ashamed!

A: Aw, come on. Books promote literacy, enable the transfer of knowledge and can bring inspiration, hope and joy. Is that bad?
Hopefully, nobody considers books "litter". And BookCrossing provides all that by just giving away books to someone who is lucky enough to find one in the wild. Consider it a gift that can change your life for the better.
Also, it's nearly impossible to throw a book away; it's just one of those objects with some special kind of intrinsic value that tells you it's to be saved, to be treasured.

So lighten up! What's the worst that could happen... you might see a few books on park benches, or bus seats, or diner tables? Make the world one big library! Or take the safer, more conventional route, and give your books to friends, or to charities, or trade them in at a used book store, or whatever... just pass them on so they can touch more lives.

I am not sure how to handle that response. I have bad feelings associated with the "lighten up" jab...of course, I've never before heard it used when referring to a worldwide book sharing program. Also, I wouldn't be so quick to agree with the argument that the probability of people throwing books away is "nearly impossible." Just ask Half Price Books about that.  Then you've got books waiting in a landfill.  Biodegrading.  Wishing they were home.  ::Sob!::

All skepticism aside, I've decided to give this a whirl. The biggest problem will be finding a book to give up. It's like Sophie's Choice up in here. I really do get some sick sort of joy out of seeing all my paperbacks lined up neatly on their shelves.

I'll let you know how it goes...and if you're feeling adventurous yourself, be sure to let me know how it goes for you, too.

Leaving books behind on purpose. So deliciously(?) taboo!

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