Posted by: paultovell | March 12, 2010

Cross-country Bookcrossing

I recently heard about the phenomenon of Bookcrossing – the idea of leaving books in public places for people to pick up, read, then pass on in the same way – and thought I’d try it out.  [See]  And I chose today as the time to do it, making the most of a long train journey.  Having already picked my three books to try this with, I decided to leave one in the starting station, one in the destination station, and one on the train in between.  And it’s quite exciting, I’ll admit, not knowing who might pick the book up, and where it might travel.

The station waiting room this morning was a cold affair, with lots of miserable-looking commuters engrossed in their Metros.  I decided to leave the book on a bench there, although it was hard to find the opportune moment – in other words, when someone else might not pass it back to me and say “excuse me, I think you’ve dropped this!”  But when the 8:30 to Derby pulled in and the station almost entirely emptied, I put the book out and sat on the opposite side of the waiting room.  I was quite glad to have deliberately positioned it before I needed to leave the room, as it was very interesting watching people eyeing it up.  One man looked suspiciously at it before opting for the easier, lighter Metro, although I daresay it would have interested him.  Then a young woman came, sat next to it, picked it up and read a few pages, then put it down – perhaps when she saw I’d scrawled my handwritten message in the front directing people to the Bookcrossing website and insisting that they could take it home with them.  Why are people so suspicious of free things?  Then it was time to go.  It may stay there for a week; it may have been taken already.

Once on the train, I again took advantage of a stop at Birmingham where nearly everyone changes to put it casually on the seat in front of me – where I could see if it had gone or not by the end of the journey.  No-one sat there for a good 2 hours, but then an older gentlemen came and rested it on his seat-table for a while before getting off and taking it with him!  Result.  Perhaps I’m getting a bit too into this people-watching thing.

For my final release, I knew Ihad to be quick as my onward lift was waiting for me. So as I got off the train, I simply bent down on a nearby bench on the platform and left it after tying my shoelace. I got up and ran off – thus preserving the anonymity of the release. And yes, it is a release – it feels strangely liberating to do this – try it yourself! As I returned to the station many hours later, I noticed it had gone. Perhaps the cleaner has taken it; even so, it’s still a connection!

One of the really interesting things about doing this is it makes you think where people stop, where they might be keen to pick up a book, and who you might attract with any particular title.  Great head-candy for a librarian!  The best is perhaps yet to come though – when my fellow (albeit unwittingly) Bookcrossing subjects decide to look at the book’s profile on the website and perhaps make a journal entry…



  1. Oh I hope you do a follow-up to this! I’ve been on the verge of doing it myself, but am always hesitant due to a fear that no one would journal an entry on the book, lol. I’m interested to see how your experiment turns out.

  2. Thanks Wolfshowl: so far, someone has picked up the third book I deposited and has left a quick message on the book’s journal page to say they’re looking forward to reading it. No news yet on the other two…

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