In my last job, I used to travel quite a bit. This travelling was always on public transport, mainly trains. A frequent announcement on these trains reminded passengers not to litter. I wholeheartedly agree with that, with one exception: reading material. I quite enjoyed finding a newspaper or a book to read while travelling. If it was a book and I would finish it at home I made sure to return it to the train, hoping someone else would find it and read it.
These days I don’t take the train anymore and I miss out on the book sharing. In all fairness, since I (and most other travellers) have an e-book reader and a smartphone the possibility of looking up to find a book on a train are rather slim. The good news is though that book sharing is coming back.
I recently stumbled across this platform to track your books while sharing it with others.
The idea is simple: get a barcode for a book and leave it somewhere for others to find. With some luck, the next person will report the book on the website and you get a notification about where it has been found. That way you can follow your book on its journey.
Book crossing is a great idea to share books with others. The website’s slogan “If you love your books, let them go!” says it all. If you have a book you greatly enjoyed, why not pass it on to others. I do it with my friends, why not involve fellow travellers or strangers?
But book crossing is not the only form of sharing books. There is the old method of sharing with friends. And there are public bookcases.
Public bookcases, sometimes referred to as book boxes, are weather-proof shelves and cases in parks and pedestrian zones where everyone can take a book and leave one. It works through giving and taking – if you take a book, you should leave one.
I first came across a public bookcase almost 10 years ago. Admittedly I was sceptical. I thought that people would either leave their rubbish (literally and figuratively) in these shelves or they would regularly be vandalised. To my surprise neither was the case (very often). Okay, the selection of books wasn’t always awesome but the shelves were always clean.
The concept of public bookcases is spreading, to other countries and to new locations. For example, there are bookcases now on public buses in Hamburg, Germany.
The principle is the same – take one, leave one. And every reader decides what goes and what stays in the public bookcase.
These encouraging examples for sharing books are side-by-side to book cafés and, of course, libraries. I’ll write more on the latter in a different post so I’ll stay with book cafés for now.
Book cafés are basically cafés filled with books where you can also get a drink and maybe even food.
Book cafés work depending on their owners and location. Some work similar to a public bookcase and you can take a book of your choice and return/give what you want. Others offer books for purchase or (controlled) lending. Some are located inside or above a book store. And others again use books as decor.
Despite their different approaches, one thing book cafés have in common is their love for books. I have sat in beautiful backyards, reading, and sipping a cup of hot chocolate. Nowadays though, I’m not the most welcomed customer at book cafés. The reason is my two kids. Book cafés tend to be quiet places where people come to read and relax. Kids don’t fit this concept and while not all cafés are strict, I have definitely gotten the odd look or stare from staff and other customers.
Book cafés are places to read, relax, and combine being among people and immersing yourself in a book.
Sharing books and the love for it is also part of book clubs. Although, these clubs are not about sharing the physical book and more about sharing the experience of reading a book.
I have yet to participate in a book club but I have started my research. One promising movement for me is online book clubs. There are a few around and I have yet to make up my mind about which one to join.
Sharing physical books and the experience of reading them are great examples of community. I’m sure to contribute to them. Are you?