We are used to thinking of books as objects destined to take a place in our bookcase and stay there forever, especially if we liked them. They are browsed, smelled, read and then closed probably for decades. Instead, thanks to a well-established initiative called bookcrossing, now books are able to move from house to house, from city to city, becoming something that isn’t destined to be bought and owned by a single individual, but to be donated by a reader to another one in an infinite cycle.
In fact, bookcrossing consists in leaving a book in any place, such as a park bench or the steps of a building, and a casual passer-by finds it and decides to take it away with him/her. Once read, the book is not kept by its last reader, but it returns to a new public place, ready to be temporarily adopted by another stranger. And this is how a story travels through time and space, meeting the most disparate and unwitting readers.
As mentioned, this initiative is not new, but it was created in 2001 by Ron and Kaori Hornbaker, and the modality is very simple: the book chosen for a possible long journey, contains an identification code, so that the original owners of the book can keep track of its entire trip, and it is also possible to contact the first owners to exchange comments on the text. But this is only possible if the ones who find the book perform the digital practice to leave their track. So, you can choose to simply read the book and then let it resume its journey until it meets a new reader, or you can use its code to give information about the last stop of the book.
Today there are public bookshops where you can practice bookcrossing in a more organized way, but this initiative has also reached other places, which are unusual compared to a bookstore, such as airports and trains. In this way, books in different languages such as Italian, English, Spanish, Russian books and so on can be exchanged, creating a multicultural and varied network.
Thanks to this initiative, culture breaks down the barriers in every sense: it passes from the private environment to public one, from the walls of a room to large and open places, it becomes free and, above all, it is a reason for sharing, since it is accessible to anyone and helps people to become a community. Not to mention the beauty of the very fact of accidentally finding a book, as if it were an unexpected gift from someone we don’t know. The bookcrossing website, in fact, states: “Don’t be selfish. Read and free the books”.
Let’s free books and give many strangers the pleasure of reading a story that first passed through our hands.