Funny, sad, crazy, scary or just stoopid?

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Please tell me what you think about this: Today, my neighborhood held an Arts Festival - the main street was closed off, musicians performed and local organizations (the historical society, community theater group, etc.) spread the word about their activities. The perfect setting for releasing a few books, right? I threw a bunch of books in a bag and went to the festival - even brought along photocopies of the "Books" magazine article about bookcrossing.

This sort of thing attracts all types, including people who were handing out leaflets promoting various causes. An old lady approached me with a political flyer, and I took it saying, "If I take this from you, will you take something from me?" She agreed, and I handed her a copy of the article. She glanced at it, then went ballistic.

She told me the she was "an author" and that she'd heard all about THIS, and that I was taking food out of author's mouths by doing what I was doing. I asked her what she thought I was doing, and she told me that I was preventing authors from receiving royalties. Um, ma'am, I am giving away books that I've paid for. The authors have already received royalties on these books. No, she maintained, I was ALL WRONG. Haughtily, she exclaimed, "You'd understand if you were a WRITER." Um, ma'am, I AM a writer. "I meet many people who SAY they write - when I say a writer, I mean someone who writes for a living." Uh, I do write for a living. "No, you don't!," she cried. Um, yes, ma'am, I'm pretty sure I do.

She was pretty furious, and I was feeling pretty uncomfortable. OK, ma'am, if I don't give my old books away, what do you think I SHOULD do - burn them or throw them away? At this point, she demanded to know my name. Come on, am I going to give my name to a stranger who is berating me in the middle of the street? I just kind of smiled and told her that she was entitled to her opinion (you can't influence someone who isn't listening), and she responded by shouting, "It isn't my opinion - it's a fact!" She then shoved the article back into my hands, and stalked off, muttering to herself.

OK, so please tell me - what do you think? Is this funny, sad, crazy, scary or just stoopid? How would you have handled it? And please, don't be nice, be honest with me.


How about all of the above? This woman may have claimed to know all about THIS but obviously she knows nothing about the site. I've only been a member here for a short time but have already spent twice what I normally would have buying books. By releasing books, I believe we encourage others to read...and possibly provoke interest in the other books out there by the same author of the book they just found.

I don't know how I would have handled it, but I think you did best by just smiling at her. There's really no good way to handle someone shouting about things they obviously really know nothing about.


Scary, because people are spreading garbage about something they don't have all the facts about. Scary because she wasn't even willing to think about the fact that we are giving books away *that we BOUGHT*, scary because you never know when something physical may happen with someone who doesn't think.

VERY sad because of the narrow-mindedness.

You have my sympathy, Annulla. My stomach churned when I read your post.


My first reaction is to say it's all those things . .. but on reflecting just a bit I'd have to vote "crazy." Only someone not quite with reality would expect you and everyone else she "assaults" with her "stuff" to take it and digest it . . . but she was unwilling to do the same with yours. Unfortunately, (sigh) this type of crazy behavior seems more prevalent. Some people are so insecure they must always be right. So sorry you had to experience it.


You know me, I'm pretty above board when making my comments. If you don't know that, beleive me then. :-)

How do you handle a person who basically "wigs out" when you offer them something? Well, I have worked with the public too many years and my experience is, people want to be heard. Simply, listen to what they say and then smile. "I appreciate what you are saying but.." Well, its worked for me but maybe having the dimples worked! ;-)

Seriously, people who are in the arts are very passionate about their craft and keep it close to them. Apparently, she has not taken the opportunity to investigate the website, those involved or is familiar with the goal of BC. It is used to PROMOTE reading! It has definately revived my own passion for reading and I take pleasure in sharing those special books I have read with others. I am not going to hop back onto my soapbox because I have already posted on how I felt with regards to the writers/royalties issues.

Don't worry, there are always the nay-sayers no matter what and you cannot please everyone. But, in this case, I would say that there are plenty who enjoy, appreciate and understand how wonderful Book Crossing is.



Thanks for trying to spread the word; I'm sorry to hear that it had this result! Some people are unable to comprehend that if they have a right to their opinions, it means others must have a right to an opinion too.


I'll join in the chorus of "jeez, sorry that happened, annulla!" Being yelled feels icky, both when it happens and afterwards, no matter who's right. And I don't think it's ususally possible to defuse someone who's set to yell -- their anger usually comes from far more than the immediate "obvious" cause.

What confuses me about this woman's argument is the idea we're preventing authors from getting royalties. Wonder if she goes around breaking the windows of used book stores? Fair or not, once that initial sale is made, no matter how many times a book is sold or how much somebody might get for it on eBay, the author gets zip. (the same with paintings, of course) But as I said, someone with emotional, irrational ideas cannot be convinced by rational argument.

Please don't let this awful incident slow you down! After all, last time I looked we were tied on the leader board :o)


Sad. Very sad. Another case of "my mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts."


Hi Annulla,

You did the right thing. You listened to her point of view, attempted to present your view.. she wasn't willing to listen. She may have been a writer but I don't think she was ever published... if she was, most likely she would understand the royalty issue. I mean, the publishers are in no way the MPAA or RIAA where they can dictate the rules to congress. (sorry had to throw in a snide remark) ;-)

It is unfortunate since she may have enjoyed bookcrossing

It is a sad thing... too many people believe what the media or other people tell them to believe. In this case, she believed some anti-bookcrossing FUD.



You know, Jason, I don't think she would appreciate our community here. One of our strong points seems to be our ability to exchange opinions and thoughts in a calm, reasonable manner. We don't always agree, thank goodness, but we don't resort to yelling or theatrics. No, I can't see her enjoying us at all.


Hi TexanWren,

I'm not so sure. If she was willing to take an honest look at bookcrossing, she would probably enjoy herself.

Who knows? She may be too set in her ways to change opinion. Although, when older people say this argument, it sounds somewhat hollow.

sorry if I'm not making too much sense today... I need caffeine...



She's a nut, just walk away. You did the right thing.


I wouldn't have made it as far as you did, Annulla, because I don't write for a living. I would have been stunned and shaken and probably would have had to take a break for a while. I would say more sad than anything else - completely unenlightened and unwilling to learn. I wonder what she writes.


Annulla, as a writer you know that all the elements of all the worlds are phenomena that may serve as inspiration, or simply as 'grist for the mill', yes? What you did was neither right nor wrong, though I would have tried to listen more and say less. But one thing at least is clear from your story. Whether the woman is a writer or not, she knows very little about communication. And too, you can simply walk away a little wiser, but she will carry this burden all of her days...



I am so sorry this happened to you. I agree with what the others have said - you did nothing wrong and handled a very sticky situation with grace.

This type of thing irritates me so much!! Like many other people on this site, I have bought way more books than I normally would since joining book crossing. I hear about books that others like and then go look for them in the shops. I see book sales and I snatch up books like a lunatic! I love it! It makes me read more, it makes me share books with book crossers and it also gets my family and friends interested in books. How on earth could this be bad for authors....grr...

Any chance you picked up this author's name?



If you picked up her name then I would be more then pleased to write her a note full of information. :-)


Since this isn't an isolated incident, I doubt knowing the author's name would make any difference.

It would be better IMHO, to take that letter and send it to the local papers & writer's guilds.



i find the best way to resolve a situation like this is to follow the person home and egg their house while they are sleeping!


Repulso, I'm beginning to like you.

That worries me. ;)


I think this is scary. I'm sorry that you had to be attacked like that, annulla. I'm really surprised that a writer didn't want to hear what you had to say. Whatever information she has about BookCrossing is obviously incomplete and I would have thought she'd want to know more. I've always thought of writers as being openminded people because their work requires them to have mental flexibility, but I guess that "stereotype" has just been shattered. I'm glad that you still tried to educate this woman and I hope that she thinks about what you said, even though she left in a huff. There's clearly a lot more going wrong in her life than a website that allows people to give books away for free.

I've also begun reading more and buying more books since I joined this site. I used to watch a lot more TV. Now I turn off the TV more often to read. I don't know if it's because of less TV and more books or other things in my life, but I find I've got more mental clarity.


I wish I could say it's unbelievable. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to pick scary. How would *I* have handled it? Um, I'd rather not say. ;-) I'll just say you probably did the best thing, under the circumstances.


This, while it repeats what others have said here, is just a little more support for you! I probably would have said much the same thing (except the writer part - I'm not a writer!) with much the same lack of success. She's not reachable - that part is sad. She seems slightly deranged - the crazy part. We will all pray for her enlightenment in our own ways - and we are glad she didn't get physical!


Read this entired thread and agree with many responses -- you did the right thing. As to what it was... I'd have to put sad, crazy, and scary. Close-mindedness is this world's downfall; an open mind seems to be somewhat of a rarity in many circles and geographical areas.

Even though I'm not a writer (unless you count the content that is published on my website), if I was someone who actually gained financially from the written word, I wouldn't hesitate to join BC and do what everyone else is doing -- promoting literacy, open-mindedness, the sharing of knowledge and the power it gives.

I registered here on August 26, but today is the first day I've actually LOOKED around, added books, and read the forums and I have to say... I am so totally hooked!! This is an absolutely brilliant, fantastic and awesome idea. The Karma that's gonna come back to all involved (especially Ron and everyone on his side) may just push humanity to become what so many wish it to be (Star Trek Universe anyone?) :)

Anyway, just my 2 cents worth if anyone's interested.

Take care and be well,
AKA PagePassion

Julie A. Richards
Portland, OR
Inner ear/Vestibular/Balance Disorder
OneWorld-OneLife Founder

Seeking submissions regarding chronic illness/disease and those who care for them. Contact for more info.

AOL IM: OWOLjrichards; Yahoo Messenger: OWOLjrichards; ICQ: 152572062; MSN Messenger: OWOLjrichards


Definetely all of the above. And while I'm throwing in my two cents, let me say that you, dear girl, are a nicer person than I am--or perhaps more graceful. Even though the way you handles the situation was probably the right way, sorry to say better you than me, because I would have argued with this nutty woman til I was blue in the face! It sounds weird, but I've become very attached to this site in a short amount of time, and to hear someone running it into the ground like she did would be comparable to directly insulting my fiancee or my friends. She was so incredibly narrow-minded that she only concentrated on the (obviously) little she knew, refusing to accept any facts, instead pretending to know everything about this site and its members, and even pretending to know about you. ("You're not a writer"? My response would have been along the lines of "How the F--- would you know anything about me you closed-minded jackass?!?") Had this happened to me, it would have been ugly, I guarantee you that.

Sorry for rambling, this just really got to me. I'll write something funnier next time, I promise!:-)


Okay, last thought: I wonder if this crazy woman routinely pickets outside her local libraries, criticizing them for merely lending books rather than selling them and thereby "taking food out of author's mouths"?

Just a thought. Wouldn't surprise me, though.


Out of curiosity, what was the political flyer about?


I posted this message a few days ago, and many people responded, both on the forum and via personal message. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone for your kind thoughts. I also wanted to explain that my encounter with the grouchy lady didn't upset me. After a couple of minutes, I realized that she had made up her mind about bookcrossing without knowing the facts and that, from her point of view, the issue was not open to discussion. And then I thought - it is a beautiful day, the sun is shining, a band is playing - do I really want to spend one more second with this woman. I decided I didn't, smiled and ended the encounter.

I also wanted to confess - to anyone who may have gotten the impression that I am incredibly polite - that I didn't actually CALL the woman ma'am - I just thought of calling her ma'am. However, you should also know that I think of ma'am as a euphamism for "you old b*tch."

Finally, I wanted to let you know that the whole thing kind of cheered me up. I thought it was great that the old broad was out there getting involved (her flyer was in support of a local political candidate), supporting her causes, feeling committed, feisty, opinionated, involved and feeling free to speak her mind without fear of censure or reprisal. I hope that when I am in my dotage, I too, will be able to passionately rant and rave in the middle of the street! And seeing the old activist ranting and raving in the middle of the street once again made me feel that my wild, nutty, boisterous city is really, once again, returning to itself. I love NY! :-)


I repeat: you're a nicer person than I am.


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