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A BookCrosser's Lament on Unheard-from Wild Releases

by bookczuk
February 9, 2009

They're out there. I know it. Hundreds of thousands of books that have a BCID in them. Every once in a while, one will resurface, and all the devoted BookCrossers who learn of it cheer. It's one of the reasons I hang out in the Site Watch Forum sometimes -- to read about the long-ago releases of others that suddenly pop back up in the BookCrossing World. A recent favorite was The Lonely Guy, the one and only book (hey, he really was lonely!) registered and released by africanqueen. Lonely Guy resurfaced 5 years, 7 months, 2 days after he was released, and as wickedlazy, who posted this catch in the forum says, "He's been lonely a long time!" (Please note, this is not a record-setting time between release and journal entry/catch, but it is one of the granddaddy ones.)

The Site Watch forum is full of interesting catches (and other interesting site stuff) posted by people who either received the journal entry because they'd previously journalled on a book, or because they like to click on the titles that flash by on the "Recently Caught" section of the sidebar. (I'm told by folks who do this regularly that the catches by AnonymousFinder are particularly fun to click.) Every day, the Site Watch Forum gives hope to those of us who send our books out into the wild, equipping them with little more than a BCID and a label or two.

On the other hand, sometimes it seems like I hear more often from my wild releases than I do from my university-aged offspring. There are certain books that check in regularly, most often ones on Bookrings or ones that were released at a BookCrossing meetup. (As if to prove this point, a copy of Funny In Farsi, originally registered by florafloraflora, and sent on a bookring by kristamd, checked in not long ago. Not too unusual to hear from a bookring, you might think, as they usually have readers dedicated to helping a book travel. Well, this one has had almost 50 different BookCrossers from over a dozen different countries journal on it. It's been lost in the mail at least twice, the most recent being 6 months ago. A recent note was to let former readers know that the book had re-emerged and was back on track to travel some more. Cool, huh?

However, it's the journal entries on the true wild ones that really cheer my heart. A few months, I got in one day what GoryDetails cleverly dubbed a BookCrossing Yahtzee: five catches from books that had been out there anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years. It was a real thrill to click on my digest that morning and read the adventures of them all. The release locations included a box of books I sent out to a beach house at Folly Beach were there was a family reunion (and 15 kids between the ages of 2 and 19), a local park, a coffee house (and OBCZ), and a Farmers Market. Some books garnered new members; one finder was a current member, and one book had already been re-released!

When I first started BookCrossing, I developed a basic technique that has served me well. If I got a catch at a particular spot, I would release another book there, sort of as a reward for giving me a catch. (Javaczuk once referred to this as my "Read and Seed" approach.) What this method has definitely caught for me is 12 OBCZ locations (with a 13th in the works.) The owners of the places I regularly dropped off books often liked the presence of the books so much that we began to keep a shelf of books for patrons to peruse. Books left in protected spots, such as OBCZs, are still valid wild releases, in my opinion, because even though I've dressed them up and sent them out in the world in a book-friendly area, I have no control over who will pick them up, carry them off or where the book will eventually land.

I have no magic formula for getting catches. (Indeed, I long to sit at the feet of the people who top the lists of books released and books caught and learn. I have this vision in my mind of climbing Mt. TBR and finding pjlareau or solittletime or 4Libros or hootnoodle up there, like the Guru of Wild Releases...) My best advice is simple. Label clearly, release regularly, and be patient. One day, one of your books will turn to someone, like ET turned to Elliot, and say, "BC phone home?"

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