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Bookcrossing.com: a form of literary hide-and-seek

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I’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 – people love creating caches, and people love finding the ones others have hidden – and it kept reminding me of a form of literary hide-and-seek I used to enjoy, Bookcrossing.com.

Bookcrossing involves “releasing” 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 found… and then reads it and drops it off at some other spot, noting where it’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 “Where’s George?” 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 “Message In A Bottle” 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 ago  was the spot where its public trail ended. If anyone has picked it up since, they haven’t bothered to share the data.

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