August 28, 2003
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There are people who watch things happen, and people who make things happen. Matthew Williams, a Starbucks employee from California, was excited to learn about BookCrossing a few months ago, so
he made things happen and took the initiative to set up an Official Crossing Zone at his workplace. His efforts have won him a Starbucks district award, and the Zone itself has been a resounding success as you can see from the bookshelf at http://starbucks5663.bookcrossing.com/. I took the opportunity to interview Matthew so we could all learn from his experience...
Where is your Starbucks located, what is your position there, and how long have you been a Starbucks employee?
I am a shift leader at store 5663 in Mountain View, California. I have been working there for seven months.
How did you first hear about BookCrossing, and what was your initial impression of it?
I heard about the site from a friend of mine who suggested it as a way for me to connect to a community of book-lovers who might be interested in contributing to my project of starting a
book-sharing program at my store. I immediately liked the concept and was excited by how many ways I could track and search for books. I was impressed by how far-reaching the project was and how many books had already been registered.
You took the initiative, and spent some of your own money, to create an Official Crossing Zone in your Starbucks location. Why?
I love books, and from a personal perspective enjoyed contributing books to the BookCrossing community. In terms of time and money commitment, it has cost me little, to contribute a lot, to
encourage and grow a project I enjoy. Starbucks has simply been a venue in which to release books; I think I would have become a part of the community anyway, even if I wasn't trying to support the Crossing Zone at the store. I have a couple of Journal projects that I am doing that
don't have anything to do with Starbucks or the CZ, but I will be releasing them through BookCrossing.com.
Did you meet resistance from your supervisors?
My manager has been very supportive. She likes books. I have received a district award, a "Bravo," for my efforts in supporting community at the store by starting the bookshelf.
Do you think your BookCrossing bookshelf takes away valuable real estate from the store's "true" purpose?
Starbucks' "true" purpose has been, to my understanding, to offer customers a café environment in which they can enjoy and relax, what they describe as a "third place," someplace that is not home
or work. Having a bookshelf in the store may or may not contribute to any increased (or decreased) revenues to the store. I really can't say. What I can say is that having books in the store makes it a more comfortable environment for me, and that I like sitting in a
comfortable chair and reading.
What have your customers said about the Crossing Zone? Have they been participating by taking and leaving books?
There have been many customers who have asked about the bookshelf and have commented on how much they like having it in the store. I know many people have taken and left books at that location.
What makes Starbucks a great place to do BookCrossing?
Books and coffee go great together.
Have you tried to spread the word about BookCrossing within the Starbucks organization? Are any other locations showing interest in creating Crossing Zones of their own?
Partners have been very interested in the bookshelf and I have enjoyed telling them about the site
and how it helped connect the project to a community of book lovers that have supported and contributed to it.
If you could sit down for 5 minutes with Howard Schultz, the Founder and Chairman of Starbucks, what would you say to convince him that every Starbucks location on the planet needs a BookCrossing Crossing Zone?
If I ever had the chance to sit down with Mr. Schultz, and he asked me about BookCrossing, I would
tell him what I get out of being a part of the BookCrossing community. He might want to sign up himself! He very well might have a few copies of his book kicking around that he might want to
Last month, I invited you to participate in a BookCrossing survey, and we're just now finished analyzing the results. We had planned to limit the survey to only 800 or so, but the information
everyone was providing was so good that we let it go without a limit, and we ended up with over 4,400 submissions. This means we had around 14,000 free-form answers to our open-ended questions to read and consider, so now you know why the results have been a long time coming.
I won't bore you with all the details, but there were some interesting data that arose:
- The average age of a BookCrosser is 41
- 84% percent of you are female
- Over 70% of you have an undergraduate degree or higher
- 96% of you have spent the same or more money on books after becoming BookCrossers
- 36% of you would consider paying for an enhanced membership program (more on that below)
The overwhelming favorite feature request was to allow anonymous journal entries on books, without requiring BookCrossing membership. Why? By not scaring off some people by asking
for their email address, etc., the overall successful catch rate should trend higher. We've thought long and hard about it, considering all the implications, and have decided to give it a try. We know that we may get fewer new members each day, but the bottom line is this: the
successful catch rate of our existing members (all of you!) is far more important to us that getting new members.
You'll find this feature is already implemented on the site, as of about an hour ago. If a journaler remains anonymous, providing simply their location, book rating, and comments, their entry will be done under the screen name "AnonymousFinder." On the page following the journal
entry, they will be encouraged to Join with a link that will retroactively update their new screen name to the journal entry. Either way, you get notification of a successful catch!
Regarding the question about the enhanced membership program, there was a significant amount of grumbling about that. Granted, without you knowing the actual features, you couldn't make an informed decision about whether or not it would be worth paying for, but the overall indication we gleaned from the survey was that stratifying the membership into free and paid levels is
not a good idea at this time. So, as many of you will be happy to note, we've put that idea aside, and assuming that Release Kit sales and membership counts continue to grow, we should be able to manage the increased financial needs of BookCrossing.com without any sort of membership fee.
Besides the anonymous journaler feature, we've been busy this last week making significant speed optimizations to the site. In particular, you should find that bookshelf pages, book search results, and member search results are all loading much faster. Next up, the forums. Look for improvements there happening in the next few days.
Oh, and one other little feature: the Journal Entry form that takes the BCID is now front-center on the Home page (http://www.bookcrossing.com/), again with the hopes of increasing the catch rate.
Finally, the lucky winner of the Extreme Release Kit, selected by random drawing from the survey participants, is skcreader (http://skcreader.bookcrossing.com/), an exceptionally active member from Roanoke, Virginia with over 1,000 books registered. Thanks to everyone who participated!
Our 4th-edition bookplate labels, featuring original art by Tess Garman, are still in stock, but the shelves are growing increasingly bare. If you like Forgotten Lore:
this may be your last week to get them, so get over to our Supply Store and buy either a pack of the new bookplate labels or a Release Kit that includes bookmarks and sticky-notes along with the bookplate labels.
What the new bookplates look like:
Supply Store: http://secure.bookcrossing.com/store
More info on Tess: http://bookcrossing.com/artists/garman
Are you an artist? If you'd like your art to be featured on a future Bookplate series, and you haven't contacted us yet, please send an email to email@example.com along with links to your work. In exchange for the considerable exposure you'll get here, and in the future on those 50,000 traveling books, we ask for only the original artwork, which we'll auction to further help support BookCrossing.
Last week I told you about my father, who was due to go in for some unexpected medical tests. Well, the results were not good, but they could have been worse. He's facing surgery for sure, and possibly some chemotherapy and radiation, but we hope not. Next Friday the 5th we're going to
learn a lot more with additional tests. Thank you all so much for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers - your outpouring of support by email and forum posts was a beautiful thing, and I'm sorry I didn't have time to personally respond to each kind message.
SSM2 last Sunday evening happened in hospital and clinic waiting rooms around the world. I'm out of space this week to give you a full account, but you can read all the details in the SSM forum at http://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/21.
This week's Sunday Sunset Mission was suggested in the forums by stinalyn (thanks!), and since it's back-to-school time in many parts of the world, SSM3 is timely and appropriate:
- RELEASE ZONE: The student union (or central student gathering place) of a college or university campus near you
- RELEASE METHOD: A well-labeled book, left in a highly visible yet unusual location (those wacky college kids should appreciate your creativity)
- RELEASE TIME: This Sunday, August 31st, at Sunset wherever you live.
The 10 Rules of Sunday Sunset Missions:
- Don't talk about SSMs!
- Don't talk about SSMs! (for Project Mayhem fans)
- Be on time! You can get the exact sunset time from http://www.weather.com/.
- Label the books properly. At the minimum, this means a sticky-note on the outside making it clear that the book is FREE and NOT LOST (don't write anything on the outside to cause others alarm!), and a good, descriptive label inside the cover explaining BookCrossing and including the BCID for the book.
- If possible, choose a book with content appropriate to the release location.
- If possible, print out one of the press articles from http://www.bookcrossing.com/press and include it with the book (the Utne Reader or Reader's Digest articles work well).
- Take pictures! Those of you with digital cameras, try to take a picture of the release zone with books, upload it with your journal entry, and make a post with the journal entry link in the new SSMs forum at http://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/21.
- Be safe! Use your common sense, and don't do anything to endanger persons or property.
- Pay attention to the media the following day or two, try to note any mention of the SSM, and post such mentions to the SSM forum.
- And finally, have fun!
As always, Happy 'Crossing!
Founder and Editor, BookCrossing.com
ps. You may have noticed my liberal usage of the plural pronoun "we" above, when talking about new site modifications and features. Well, I don't have a frog in my pocket. In fact, someone has been helping me program and optimize the website code, someone many of you know very well since
he, too, is a high-profile BookCrosser. I'm going to let it remain a secret for now, but next week, make sure to read the newsletter to find out just what BookCrosser has started working behind the curtains at BookCrossing.com.
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