BookCrossing: Full of Sound & Fury

October 31, 2009    

Imagine reading a great book and wanting to share it with the world. Not only that, but you want to know that other people are enjoying it as much as you did. Enter BookCrossing, a service meant to help you pass along your book and then track where it goes. Also, enter disappointment.

Like Where’s George and other similar services, BookCrossing has a simple premise: Take an every day object (a book), tag it with a unique code and the URL of the website. Naturally, everyone who sees the mundane object will check out the URL and register the unique code. When this happens, you create a travel log for the item and everyone can be agog as they track their book across the country. Nay, the world!

BookCrossing encourages you to tag a book, journal about it on their website and then release it in one of two ways. A controlled release involves giving it to someone specific, whether that’s someone you know or another user of the website. On the flip side, a wild release is almost like Geocaching without the precision and satisfaction of knowing that what you’re looking for is still there. Effectively, you leave the book in a public place with a note on the website pointing people in that direction.

Just to give it a spin, I looked up a book that was left in the building where I work. It is a large building and the previous user only indicated that it was there somewhere. Needless to say, I never found it. When I released my first book, I tried to be more helpful; I narrowed it down to a four foot square area. Still, if someone has picked up the book I left, they have yet to register it on the website.

As neat as it sounds in concept, BookCrossing just doesn’t live up to the promise for me. Maybe if they redid their website, added smart phone support and generally made the whole process easier, they’d get more traction. Then again, I have to wonder how many of the books end up turning to dust in a lost & found or trash can. I’m going to continue to donate my old books to the local charitable book store.