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corner corner Bookaphobia ????

Or ‘Oh yeah, Those Odd Books Left Lying About’

by hotflash
March 22, 2005

So there I am, skulking behind a post, trying to not to look like an inefficient private investigator on a case, trying to be nonchalant and cool, while glancing every few minutes in the direction of my recently released book. I catch my breath as one woman stops, looks, bends over, reads the bright pink “I’m Not Lost, Take Me Home” label, and then, AND THEN, she just keeps on going! What??? No! Surely she can’t just leave it lying there, can she? Why would someone pass up a chance to pick up a free book? I repeat, A FREE BOOK ! I wanted to run after her yelling, “Lady, wait, it’s a BOOK, a free book, do you not understand what you just did? Wait !! What’s the matter lady? Do you have bookaphobia or something?”

Several days later, in the aftermath of the shock of watching my lovely little book just sit there while a number of strangers passed it by, I pondered the question, “Why, oh why, are so many people not intrigued by a tempting, wild-released book?.” I, being a BC fanatic, simply can’t understand anyone passing up one of our ‘wild releases’. Well, inquiring minds want to know, so I did my own--very short but informative—survey, to try to get some answers and set myself straight.

I spoke with several people. Three confided that, yes, they have seen ‘those books people leave lying about with the little stickers on them’, and yet not one of the three (all readers) picked up one of the books. One of the three was a woman working in a charity thrift shop, from whom I had just purchased several books. I used the opportunity to tell her a bit about BookCrossing, and she suddenly became very interested and animated. “Oh yes”, she remarked, “I have actually come across some of those books but did not pick any up because I didn’t really know what it was all about.” It seems that she was just not adventurous enough to grab the books she found and discover ‘what it was all about’. The other two non-finders were two “friends” (whose status is now iffy), who actually recognized the BookCrossing logo on the books they came across, but the titles of the books simply did not appeal, so neither one bothered to pick them up. Both almost-catchers knew about BookCrossing and understood, I think, about the anticipation BXers feel, waiting for catches and journal entries. Nevertheless, they both passed.

In the case of the thrift-shop lady, we seem to have a simple fear of the unknown, of stepping out of her comfort zone. The two other ladies hesitated because the titles of the books were unappealing to them (romance novels). So, here we have might be seeing a bit of book snobbery taking precedence over the fun of finding, and then passing along, a traveling book.

To complete my miniature survey, I actually pointed out released books to two passersby, and asked why they stopped but hadn’t pick up the book. Were they afraid of hearing sirens go off and police being called? Were they embarrassed? Did they think it was part of a terrorist plot? Well, none of the above. One person told me, “I’m just not interested in reading; I don’t read books, sometimes magazines, but not books.” The other trusting, fun-loving soul grumpily responded, “It has to be a gimmick. No one gives away anything in this world for free!” Sigh! Big Sigh!

So, what did I take away from all this illuminating input, you ask? Have I come to my senses? Am I too discouraged to continue wild-releasing books after being dashed with a rather cold accounting of BookCrossing disinterest? Well, I guess it might take more than even a big bucket of cold water to lessen the heat of BookCrossing zeal, an idiosyncrasy I found myself mulling over just this morning, at a local coffee shop, as I subtly peeked over my menu to keep one eye on the book I left on the counter by the napkins and utensils…

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