Saturday, August 9, 2008

Thoughts on BookCrossing

I've lately been debating leaving, the website that was supposed to be a knock-off of Where's George. I say "supposed to" because it's much easier to pass dollar bills around among the population than it is to leave books out in random places for people to find.

Well, no. It's easy to LEAVE a book in a random place. What's harder is getting people to pick up the books and make a journal entry about where the book was found and what the reader thought of it.

So I began trading online, first through a community of BookCrossers. That was great because you knew the books would be journalled. The problem was that we were all so backed up with books we wanted to read that, all too often, the books would sit for a long time and then be passed along, unread, because the current owner had collected too many and it was time to pare some down. (this isn't a criticism, because I'm still reading books that have been here about three years now. And yes, I'm trying to read oldest-arrived to most-recently arrived. It's not easy!)

I miss hearing the thoughts that people have when they read something I've read. That's the part that really jazzes me, as a BookCrossing member. Yes, it's cool to be able to say, "A book I sent out into the world showed up in (insert name of country here)."

But it's even cooler to read someone's thoughts on a book.

I got notice this morning that one of my books had been journalled. I was one of three or four readers who really liked it -- but this recent reader found the main character annoying.

I had to stop and think about that. It had been awhile since I'd read the book (and many hundreds of pages since then) and I'm not as clear about things as I would be if this had been a book club discussion, for instance. But no, I don't remember the main character being annoying. In fact, I liked her and thought she was real.

I'm not going to say that this new person was wrong. Not at all.

Rather, I'm intrigued and fascinated by the thought that someone had such a different reaction to what I thought. I wish I could reach out through the computer and engage this reader in a long discussion about exactly what was annoying. I want to hear what she has to say. It won't be the first time someone's conflicting opinion changed my own reading experience.

I hope it won't be the last.

Thus, for now, I'm going to continue BookCrossing. All the books I continue to post at BookMooch or will be registered first.

Hopefully more people who come across a BookCrossing book will take a few minutes and record their thoughts on a book. For me (and for others, too), a large part of BookCrossing is hearing how books touch our lives. It's a great reminder for us writers when we get discouraged -- here's proof that what we do matters.

But it's an even better reminder of the power of a book.


Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

what a great initiative! It's really a great thought to have these books travel around the world, and share the wonders of a book for free with others.. Instead of it only collecting dust..

Unfortunately, I do have the same problem you're having.. I have a growing pile of books I'm still longing to read, but really can't find the time to do it..
But, the opportunity to discuss a book with others is indeed wonderful.
To me, indeed the beauty is in people who read (or experienced) exactly the same, and perceived it completely different. It's often quite an eyeopener to hear that different perspective..

But even without that, books have indeed touched and influenced my life in so many wonderful ways. So, please, never doubt whether what you matters!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

My TBR is hovering around 500 right now. It seems that every time I knock a few off, a few more show up. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Great post Susan! I just celebrated my 5th BookCrossing anniversary on August 3rd. I still love to wild release. I've had books recently journaled that I sent out into the world 3-4 years ago, so you just never know!

Speedcat Hollydale said...

Amazing how some print on a white page can affect and change a person. A good book is so loaded with emotion that it's hard to understand how the cover closes.