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How to release nonfiction... virtually!

by PokPok
March 31, 2008
One of the questions I see most often on the fora, is "How do I release this book? The audience is limited, the subject is esoteric, but I'd like it to be read." I had some concerns about this. My tastes often run to niche areas, from quantum physics to non-romaticized portraits of life in Tudor England, to the current political structure to investment strategies for biotechnology companies. These books aren't necessarily the best to release in the freezer section of the grocery store. How do I release this book?

Searching TexasWren's wonderful website one day, I found the answer: offer up a virtual bookbox. What is a virtual bookbox? Instead of placing books in a physical box and shipping it from member to member--- where shipping costs play a heavy role--- I could host a virtual bookbox!

And that's what I did! Three years later, this is what I learned:

* I hosted 8 rounds of my nonfiction virtual bookbox. It was usually very little time, and always rewarding
* 345 books were shared, between 27 people in countries as spread apart as the Western U.S. to Southern Australia to Eastern Europe.
* Even within a category like "nonfiction", tastes are very diverse. Topics of books ranged from a book on the Backstreet Boys to first person accounts at Auschwitz to a book to teach Embroidery.
* BCers that did not live in the US, especially liked the box. This gave them an opportunity to receive and release books that normally they could not participate in, due to the cost of shipping an actual box around the globe.
* Many books would be retrieved from the box, read, then rereleased in the box.
* As I have seen many times, BCers are very generous. In many instances, people put in more books to the box, than they took out. At any given time, the box would have 50-75 books in it. Tabby-cat-owner wins the prize, for submissions to the box, with over 75 books!
* Over the 3 years, I released 18 books via the box, and received 10. The subjects ranged from diving shipwrecks to the Russian Revolution.

I now see questions fairly regularly about how a virtual bookbox works. There's a few variations, but here's what I did:

1. I started with a list of books. I PMed the list to person # 1. That person chooses what they are interested in, and the titles/authors of the books they are putting in the box, and PMs me.
2. I PM person #1 and tell them who has the books they are interested in. Person #1 is responsible to send the mailing address to the holder of the book.
3. I notify the holders of the books as well, to expect the PM from person # 1.
4. I then update the list with the new books from person # 1, and remove the books that person # 1 claimed, and PM person # 2 with the new list.
5. Repeat.... for 3 years!!

I also required the willingness to ship all over the globe.

I let people/books "out" of the box, after each 2 rounds, and invited new members in. I also found that 3 years and 8 rounds later, this last round got a little stale. The box WILL be back-- in about 6-12 months, to allow the gathering and reading of nonfiction!

I enjoy all the various ways Bookcrossing enables us to share books-- I release in the wild, release to a very active Panera OBCZ, release to my local meetup group, take part in rings, and bookboxes. They all have different things to offer, in a unique flavor. I have found the virtual bookbox an excellent way to share books that may not be the best for a wild release.

PokPok aka your virtual nonfiction bookbox hostess

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