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Different Strokes for Different Folks

As the French say, "a chacun son goute"
by BigJohnLefty
July 22, 2004
Everybody seems to have their own interpretations for What BookCrossing Is All About. Although, as we all know, variety is the spice of life, we must still at all times maintain a certain respect and consideration for variety.

Like the lyric in the old Sly Stone song, "Everyday People", different BookCrossers look at things differently. And if you spend much time in the forums, you'll even sometimes see a little bit of "there is the green one, that won't accept the blue one, for being such a rich one, that will not help the purple one…."

Seriously, though, I don't think the whole deal was set up to be something rigid and set in stone, but rather a living and growing entity. Over a quarter of a million strong worldwide (and projected to reach a half million before we know it), any organization that large is bound to have at least that many differing opinions.

Take releasing, for example: although one is "supposed to" make a journal entry (rather than release notes) when they are giving a book to a known person (such as a fellow BookCrosser), it still seems to show up in your statistics as "released". Although many who deem themselves "purists" don't like this, I personally don't have a problem with it. As far as I'm concerned, the goal of this is to "make the world a library", by passing books along to others; if I finish a book and decide that I ‘d like to give it to my Aunt Matilda because I know she'd just love it, even though it is not a "wild release", strictly speaking, I have done my parting in keeping with the philosophy to "spread books around".

Posts in the various forums and the Yahoo site indicate that many BookCrossers experience a certain level of frustration over a low "rate of return" (for lack of a better term) from their wild releases. Just today I noticed a post from someone who was upset that only 4 of their 24 had been caught and journaled; I myself have wild-released more than that and have had only one journaled! But, as many people are quick to point out, it's not likely that the book(s) in question just ended up in the trash; they probably got read by somebody, and they may even end up being journaled a couple of years down the road.

So I must confess that I do not wild-release as much as I once did; I'm more likely to view it as a "last resort", after first taking it to a meet-up or maybe offering it up as a RABCK on a forum – I also try and keep a few "available" titles on hand to put in a bookbox (at any given time, I'm on the list for one or two of these and never know when one might roll in). I also like to wild-release at an OBCZ when I can, simply because many of these seem to be tough to keep going if they are not very diligently maintained – although these books get taken, they don't seem to get journaled much more often than those left on, say, bank ATM's or gas pumps.

Someone at a meet-up last week told me she lets "karma" guide her – she may be in a bookstore and feel drawn to a certain book, and buys it; she further stated she often gets the same feeling while walking somewhere about the "right place" to leave a book. Acting on the concept, I told her of a book on my shelf I'd bring to the next meet-up to give to her.

Although I never release a book I haven't read (a fact that causes what many of us refer to as Mt. TBR to become rather large), many BookCrossers buy up boxes of books at Flea Markets, garage sales and thrift stores just to register and release them. And why not? It seems like, once again, it is keeping books moving around, instead of having them gather dust somewhere.
Again, this is not something set in stone. I may change my mind and cut loose some unread books myself sometime. It wouldn't kill me.

There also seems to be a bit of debate over what "available" means; I've recently seen posts in Yahoo questioning this. I view "available" as meaning just that – available; that is, I could wild-release it, offer it as a RABCK, or take it to a meet-up to give away. And since I (so far) do not release a book without reading it, it means I have read it, and am done with it, and ready to set it off on its journey.

This brings me to the subject of courtesy and etiquette; apparently some BookCrossers take "available" to mean, "I'll mail it, at my own personal expense, to anyone who wants it, so go ahead and PM me and demand that I do so immediately!" I can't for the life of me, understand why someone would think this, but some do.

And so many BookCrossers, on their profile, state unequivocally that they do not want people contacting them for books they have, either as trade of gift – obviously these folks have been burned by the those of the above-mentioned category one too many times.

Although I myself have right there on my profile that I love to do RABCK's and will gladly send an available book to someone who PM's me with an address (and I have made this statement mainly because of the several fellow BookCrossers who have sent me books for free, because whatever comes around goes around), I can assure you that I do expect a person doing so to at least be gracious about it.

My policy is to not contact someone about a trade or RABCK unless they have posted in the forum that they are offering something; common sense would seem to dictate that if somebody wants to give away a book, they'd put the word out in a forum. Even then, I always offer stamps to defray their costs.

Of course, there would be more clarification of a lot of these items if Ron would just make a few more "status" options available; how about "reading" – after all, neither "TBR" nor "Available" describes a book I happen to be right in the middle of. Or maybe, splitting "released" into "Controlled release" and "wild release" – that move alone would stop a lot of controversy. But again, we've probably got enough "bells and whistles" on the website; I'm just grateful that the homepage is as sophisticated as it is. Besides, where would it end? Pretty soon people would be clamoring for categories like, "put in bookbox", "given to a relative", or "1/3 of the way through this book".

Gee, I guess I'm sorry I opened that can of worms.

A number of my fellow BookCrossers have established webpages that better explain many of the concepts surrounding the whole enterprise; these folks are too numerous to mention (suffice to say that most of them can be found off links from the homepage) and I do want to make it clear that I've used their services many a time, and appreciate them greatly, as do (I assume) the majority of my fellow BookCrossers. But I also know that there are people out there who don't quite follow the same rules. I guess that's okay, too, as long as expectations are spelled out and honesty is still the bottom line.

Many aspects of BookCrossing seem to have a "just make up your own rules" air about them, and maybe some would cringe at this apparent anarchy, but then, let's face it, anybody who gets their kicks giving away books, whether by leaving them in coffee shops and park benches, or handing them or mailing them to folks who are pretty much total strangers, has got to have at least a small anarchist streak in them.

Truth be told, the whole enterprise has sparked a lot of spirited discussions as well as creative ideas – nothing wrong with that. BookCrossing has evolved into a community of thinking readers who, for the most part, are all in favor of the free exchange of ideas, and continues to evolve as time goes on.

So, whether you believe in serendipity, karma, fate, charity or any combination of these concepts, whatever your color, shape, size, beliefs or ethnic origins, welcome aboard the USS BookCrossing! There's plenty of room for all of us on this ship.

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