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Old 1st Aug 2005, 10:11   #121
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Here's a recent article about Bak's favourite anarcho-book commune, Bookcrossing:

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Finders, readers

Bookcrossing is a literary treasure hunt that starts and finishes online. Someone leaves a book they love for others to find and see whether they love it too. And its top 50 reveals some surprise choices

Viv Groskop
Sunday July 31, 2005
Observer


I have discovered the ultimate summer treasure hunt. I found out about it a few weeks ago and I am hooked. Are you looking for a copy of Four Blondes by Candace Bushnell (Abacus)? It's waiting for you in the Nicky Clarke hair salon in Birmingham's Mailbox. Passing through Cardiff Central Station? Keep your eyes peeled for Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years by Sue Townsend (Penguin). But don't you dare stumble across The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Flamingo). It's in a pub near Waterloo and I am hoping to get there by Monday.
These abandoned books are lying in wait courtesy of an online phenomenon called bookcrossing. Its most ardent fans describe it as a way to exert your intellectual influence on the world and feel you're doing a good turn. In these jittery times, books are perhaps the one thing you can safely leave on a train or bus (naked, and not in a bag, please).

It's a sort of philanthropic version of Amazon's online service. Like Amazon, everyone who logs on adores books and the supply is endless. Unlike Amazon, bookcrossing is free. It is also great for children: hundreds of UK bookcrossers are under 16 and furiously swapping their favourites. Another bonus: as far as I can make out, bookcrossers never meet their secret benefactors (they're too busy reading, probably), so for once online forums are a dating-free zone.

The concept is finders-keepers meets interactive virtual lending library. The rules are simple. First take a book down from your shelf. It should be one you love. (Ideally, if you ruled the world you would make reading of this book compulsory.) Log onto bookcrossing.com and register. Print out a label and a number for your book. Release it into the wild. The person who finds the book will see the invitation to the website where they can log their find, eventually write a review and then rerelease the book themselves. In theory, as the book travels around, it should build up an online profile of reviews.

Bookcrossing started in April 2001 in Missouri, and now has 350,000 members in 90 countries who have liberated more than two million books in dozens of different languages. In the UK there are 4,000 bookcrossers who have established 'Crossing Zones' (places where you can find abandoned books). On the website you can search according to location. The Crossing Zones can be specific or random. You could spend several hours combing King's Parade in Cambridge for Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber), released four weeks ago, or you could hit the jackpot straight away at the phone box opposite Safeway on Byres Road, also in Cambridge, although no one has been tempted yet. Sadly, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (Penguin) has been at large for eight months.

Described as the modern message in a bottle, Bookcrossing's 'most registered' top 50 list makes for fascinating, if predictable, reading. These, after all, are the books hundreds of people believe others must read. Dan Brown holds the top two slots with Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code (Corgi Adult). There are 14 John Grisham novels and rather a lot of Michael Crichton. But there are surprises too: To Kill a Mockingbird (Arrow) by Harper Lee, We Were the Mulvaneys (Fourth Estate) by Joyce Carol Oates, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (HarperCollins), The Lovely Bones: A Novel by Alice Sebold (Picador).

Ron Hornbaker, the founder of the site (which, incidentally, is strictly non-profit and survives on donations from readers), has found three of the greatest reads of his life thanks to bookcrossing: Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco (Vintage), Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Canongate), a top 50 entry, and A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. He has never heard of anyone in publishing complaining about bookcrossing reducing sales: 'Books have always been shared through friends and libraries. It's legal and we're doing nothing different. And you should want your books shared. Only the good ones get passed around and talked about, and the buzz does more good to sales than harm.'

The proof of the reading is in the finding, though. Since I found out about the site a few weeks ago I've passed through Chancery Lane tube station but miserably failed to spot Freud's Five Lectures on Psychoanalysis (Penguin). I almost persuaded my dad to hunt for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (Vintage) at the Village Pump Festival in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, last week but we decided the location listed was too vague. I had a disastrous expedition last Tuesday to the Prince's Head pub on Richmond Green to find 1984 by George Orwell (Penguin). It's long gone, said the barman, although no one has registered it as found yet.

Finally on Wednesday I hit gold. Someone had listed the Crossing Zone as my local branch of Oxfam. I ended up paying 99p to charity to get it (a rather sweet twist, I thought). The book? Unfortunately, it's The Pelican Brief (Arrow), but I have never read any John Grisham so this could be the start of an unexpected passion. Now it's my turn to reciprocate. Any day now I will be unleashing my favourite recent reads, The Society of Others by William Nicholson (Black Swan) and The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst (Picador), probably at a service station on the A303. See you there?
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Old 1st Aug 2005, 10:58   #122
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Isn't the problem that this most romantic vision of BookCrossing, ie where people abandon books to be found by others, is the aspect of it which works least well? - as evidenced by the fact that all the books the piece mentions weren't actually there when the writer went to look for them. After all, any book left in a pub, or phone box, or park bench, or any other public place, is going to be cleared away and chucked out within a few days to a week whenever the street cleaners or bar staff find it. The only way, as I understand it, that BookCrossing really works is the way rick has used it, as a 'swap' for wanted and unwanted books.
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Old 3rd Aug 2005, 15:24   #123
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6 British based literature blogs fed into one handy site: Britlitblogs.
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Old 17th Aug 2005, 0:39   #124
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Cool! Flickr & Yahoo have merged. Now I should get a two for one login.
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Old 17th Aug 2005, 8:37   #125
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To get the two-for-one, you presumably have to use exactly the same name as on Flickr in your new Yahoo a/c? It might have been useful for them to give a guide to doing that - it says your Yahoo a/c can have spaces in the address, but if you sign up like that, will it allow you access to Flickr where your account has no spaces?
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Old 17th Aug 2005, 9:02   #126
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Col - it lets you tie the two together even if they are different. You then log in with your Yahoo! username, but there don't seem to be any other changes.

I did have to download a new copy of the uploader tool, though this has been upgraded recently anyway, so is worth doing for that reason.
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Old 4th Oct 2005, 16:52   #127
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Default Re: The Wonderful World of the Web

Just a few words about books available on the internet. This group has been of immense use to me over the past months.

Quite a lot of Shakespeare is available here:
The Complete(?) Works of WS

George Orwell
http://www.george-orwell.org/

Dickens
http://www.dickens-literature.com/

(by the) Mark Twain
http://www.mtwain.com/

Charles Darwin
http://www.darwin-literature.com/
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Old 5th Oct 2005, 0:14   #128
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Default Re: The Wonderful World of the Web

Thanks for those, carfilhiot. I have submitted them to the links directory. If anyone else has some useful links they have come across, feel free to submit them to the directory yourselves!
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Old 6th Oct 2005, 2:36   #129
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Default Re: The Wonderful World of the Web

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Self
Isn't the problem that this most romantic vision of BookCrossing, ie where people abandon books to be found by others, is the aspect of it which works least well? - as evidenced by the fact that all the books the piece mentions weren't actually there when the writer went to look for them. After all, any book left in a pub, or phone box, or park bench, or any other public place, is going to be cleared away and chucked out within a few days to a week whenever the street cleaners or bar staff find it. The only way, as I understand it, that BookCrossing really works is the way rick has used it, as a 'swap' for wanted and unwanted books.

John,
Actually we have a few places close to my home that are called "Crossing Zones" I have been fairly lucky when leaving books at these specific sites. There are a few "orphans" that have been hanging around a while and I will most likely move them as I don't want the shop owners to get upset. I've swapped a few but most of mine have been picked up. I did notice that often the books are gone but no one journals. A friend of mine said that people are reluctant to go to a site they are unfamiluar with. They don't want any more advertising than they already have. The idea behind BookCrossing is a good one and I would imagine that it works better in some communities more than others.

Maggie
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Old 17th Oct 2005, 12:01   #130
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Default Re: The Wonderful World of the Web

http://www.writely.com/ is worth mentioning - it is a word processor online, accessed through a browser. Free to sign up, it means you can hold documents online and can access them from wherever you are, meaning you don't have to faff around with multiple versions.

Also, you can give other people access to a document and collaborate over the internet.
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