I’m not a big fan of used books, for obvious reasons (just in case it’s not obvious. . . neither author nor publisher makes money on the sale of a used book, and the only way an author will get a new contract is by making money for the publisher, and the only way readers will be able to continue reading their favorite authors is if those authors get new contracts). When books are out of print, though, I buy them used and love that the Internet has made that so easy to do. But this post is about used books that are not being sold. They’re being released into the wild for another reader to find. And last week, I found my very first wild book!
I’ve known about Bookcrossing.com for years, but I never stumbled across a released book, which accounts for my excitement. I sat down in my favorite cushy chair at Starbucks. On the table next to me were three neatly stacked books, which I assumed someone had forgotten. Then I spotted a note on the front of one of the books. It read I am not lost, and I knew I’d found a Bookcrossing book. It had an identifying number inside, which I plugged into the appropriate page on the Bookcrossing website. Then I could see where my new book had been. It had only one owner before me, which explains why it looks so sparkling new. I had trouble deciding which of the three books to take; I wanted to leave a couple behind for the next lucky person. I decided on The Keep, by Jennifer Egan. It looked intriguing, but not like my usual fare. It was free, so why not give a new-to-me author a try? Which brings me to my next point.
There are authors who don’t like Bookcrossing.com for the same reason they (and I) squirm when thinking about used book sales (I’ll probably be hearing from some of them. . . ). But I see it differently. It’s unlikely a book you stumble across is one you were planning to buy, and it may introduce you to a new-to-you author–one whose books you just may buy in the future if the one you picked up is good. And besides, it’s such a cool sociological experiment to follow a book as it travels the world (Bookcrossing.com is international).
The Keep is now in my ridiculously tall to-be-read pile. Once I’ve read it, I’ll take it back to Starbucks, where I’ll set it free for the next lucky reader to find.