Iâ€™ve been geocaching with my boy, using a GPS to find hidden objects whose coordinates are logged on a central website. The game is a double pleasure â€“ people love creating caches, and people love finding the ones others have hidden â€“ and it kept reminding me of a form of literary hide-and-seek I used to enjoy, Bookcrossing.com.
Bookcrossing involves â€śreleasingâ€ť books into the community, each marked with an individual I.D. number, and waiting for them to be found. Ideally, whoever finds a book goes to the free Bookcrossing website, notes where the book was foundâ€¦ and then reads it and drops it off at some other spot, noting where itâ€™s been left, and continuing the cycle. Think of it as the book version of the traveling gnome from the movie Amelie, or the dollar bills of the â€śWhereâ€™s George?â€ť website.
Bookcrossing has been around since 2001, and now boasts nearly 6 million registered volumes. I first wrote about it in 2003, and talked then to one woman whose book (a copy of â€śMessage In A Bottleâ€ť by Nicholas Sparks) had traveled the world, from Washington state to Seoul to Tokyo. I just looked up the same volume, one out of nearly 1,000 copies of that book registered on
Bookcrossing, and was sad to see that the Tokyo stop I mentioned six years agoÂ was the spot where its public trail ended. If anyone has picked it up since, they havenâ€™t bothered to share the data.
Thatâ€™s what ultimately frustrated me when I first played around with Bookcrossing. I had set out what seemed like enticing books in promising locations â€“ one of my favorites, Mark Helprinâ€™s â€śWinterâ€™s Tale,â€ť in a hospital waiting room, a copy of Murray Morganâ€™s classic Seattle history â€śSkid Roadâ€ť at the cityâ€™s famed Pike Place Market, and so on â€“ but it was rare to tally even one follow-up note. Itâ€™s not unknown for a Bookcrossing title to resurface months or years after its last log entry, but Iâ€™ve been waiting a long time.
This weekend, though, the fun of geocaching nudged me into the game again. I left a copy of the 2009 Zagat Seattle restaurant guide at a natural foods store, and Iâ€™ve prepared other books to drop off around the region. Want to watch their progress, if there is any? My books are registered at http://www.bookcrossing.com/mybookshelf/Bookcrosser411. And if you want to find â€śtravelingâ€ť books in your own town, search the site to find out where to look â€“ or even to register your own, and enjoy the fun of the hiding as much as the seek.
Rebekah Denn writes at www.eatallaboutit.com.