Bookcrossing – How does it work then?

I know I have talked about Bookcrossing before, but I just thought I’d cover some details of how it can work on a local basis.

First of all: to define Bookcrossing (from the website itself)bannerlogo_world-library

BookCrossing is the act of releasing your books “into the wild” for a stranger to find, or via “controlled release” to another BookCrossing member, and tracking where they go via journal entries from around the world.

The website itself was set up in the US in the early 2000s, and I joined early 2003 when I was living in Ireland.

The basic principal is as follows:

  • A user registers a book on the site, which provides an automatically generated number, that the user adds to the book.
  • The book is “released” (more later), hopefully to be found by someone else.
  • If the book is found, the new owner can go back to the site, enter the unique number and say what they thought about it and/or say what they are doing with it. This is optional, and it is frequently happens that books are found years later in unexpected countries, which then begs the question what happened in the meantime.
  • The book then gets passed on etc.

Here’s a shortish video, made a few years ago now, that could help:


It is a good idea not to leave a Bookcrossing book, even if clearly labelled, in a number of areas. These include airports (security reasons), bookshops (offering a free book in a place that sells books? Hey give a man a break and don’t undermine a bookseller from making a living), anywhere where common sense says not to leave.

  • For security reasons, books were rarely left in train stations, specifically places like the London Underground. However it seems there has been a certain relaxation of security (I.e. No longer Taking Everything Left Behind and blowing it up), so this unwritten rule has been relaxed slightly.
  • The true spirit of bookcrossing is to leave in wild to be found by someone else. A park bench. A bus seat. A train station. The luggage rack in public transport. On a cafe table. A themed release…”How to be Good” on the pastry shelf in Tescos (yes this has happened). An art book on bench opposite a related picture/art piece. It can be fun being creative as to where a book can be left and therefore found.
  • With wild releasing however there comes a low “catch rate”. Books are collected by staff who don’t understand or don’t care. Books are picked up by people who will pass on, and pass on, but never tell you what happened.
  • The guys in the local train station have been trained that I am now “mad book lady” and that any books found in the station are to be set aside for me and I will take care of them…..
  • Relatively Closed communities. Donate books to homeless shelter, domestic violence, YMCA. You may just provide someone with the book that changes everything.
  • Pass onto friends. We want to share wih family and friends dont we?
  • Wish lists – people can build up their own wishlist on the site and users can search wishlists to see who is interested in reading a specific books. A book can be passed on to a specific, single user Random Act of Bookcrossing Kindness (RABACK)
  • Rings/Rays
    • A ring is where a book is passed through a number of people, ultimately to return to the person who started the ring, collecting Journal Entries along the way.
    • Rays are similar to Rings, but the book doesnt return to the originator.
    • The rules for Rings and Rays are determined by the originator of the book.  Whether this is National or International. The timelimit allowed for reading the book. The general order of people (not all people can take the book at the time determined for instance so can opt out). There is a level of trust that people will observe the rules, and pass the book on in good time.


Shelves in public access places where books can be left, stored safely, and picked up by visitors. Usually cafes or pubs, where its traditional to buy a coffee, lemonade, cake, greet staff etc for the staff to see benefit. We have Official BookCrossing Zones around the city and they are:


Thankfully, Birmingham is large enough to have a regular meet, but there are areas that don’t have enough active members to make local meets productive. The style of the group often depends on how it was set up originally – Birmingham meets for coffee on a Saturday afternoon, the Dublin one was/is held on a Thursday night in the pub as I set it up cos I wanted someone to go out drinking with….There are a number of groups on Facebook, including Bookcrossing Official Facebook GroupBookcrossing UK Facebook Group,


There is an annual Convention, held in various locations around the world (April 2017 will be in Oslo). Representatives from the US site often attend. There are also Unconventions (i.e. “not the Convention”), the last one held in Birmingham in 2016, the next one in Loughbrough.

Anyone have any questions? Want to know more? Leave a comment below or come to a meeting!


4 thoughts on “Bookcrossing – How does it work then?

  1. Im still finding this harder to do than I imagined. For the reasons you mentioned (staff just throw the book out) Ive been reluctant to do wild releases but the only official book crossing zones near me involve a train ride so I dont do it often (particularly now I am recuperating from my surgery). the local membership isnt very active either so no meet ups. Wish I was near Birmingham!


    • The Shropshire meetings didnt really get going (I only went to one, years ago). Even the Brummie ones can be “compact and bijoux” and the one just gone ran the risk of not happening at all due to people not being available. Ultimately we had 5 of us, including two Saolpians who came up on the train.

      Hope you recover well and soon!.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just to mention the Hare and Hounds one is status unknown at the moment as they’ve had a refit and haven’t replied to me about where the books have gone. Also a bit of a shock to come across myself in the video!


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