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!

Birmingham Bookcrossers Group

Anyone who has caught my posts and tweets over the last few weeks, will have known that there has been the 2016 UK Bookcrossing Unconvention in Birmingham on the 23rd to 25th September. This has meant that people from all over the UK (as well as Ireland and parts of Western Europe) bannerlogo_world-libraryconverged in the city to meet up, meet local authors, play games, eat, drink, tour the city and even do bookish things!  I wrote a post about it here

We still find people who have not heard about Bookcrossing, thought it was a fad from 10 years ago, or didn’t know there is a healthy community at city, country and international level.

I’m not sure we actually managed to get #Bcuncon2016 trending on twitter (I hope we did!), but I thought I’d just write a post about how the community is active throughout the year, and it isn’t just a once-a-year get together.

Since I live in Birmingham, I’m going to talk about the Birmingham Group in particular. We’ve moved around a bit the last few years, mainly due to our local coffee shops evolving and changing shape (some have closed permanently, some for a short time and some simply haven’t worked out) and I suspect that we’ve lost some people along the way.

We meet on the 4th (not last) Saturday of every month – currently we meet at 3threes Coffee in Martineau Place from 2:30pm.   Not only does this place cater for Vegans and Vegetarians, but it is also an Official Bookcrossing Zone (OBCZ) – if you see a book with a bookcrossing label or number, feel free to take it away!

We have other OBCZs around the city and they are:

There is an overarching Bookcrossing group on Facebook, that allows you to meet with international menbers. There is a Bookcrossing UK public group on Facebook, as well as the one for Bookcrossing Birmingham.  The Birmingham team tweets under @bxbrum.

Following the energy and fun that was had over the last weekend, it would be lovely to capitilise on it, and have new members join us



Bookcrossing Uncon: T minus 3 days


I joined Bookcrossing back in 2003 whilst living in Dublin, Ireland, after seeing an article in the Financial Times about it – it was this kooky idea of “the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise”. (My “shelf” can be found here)

I then didn’t do anything for a year or so, but decided to go back to it – in part because I was reading a stupid number of books, but also I decided that I needed to get a better work/life balance, and wanted someone to go out drinking with. Books and alcohol seemed to be a perfect combination! I therefore set up BCIE (Bookcrossing Ireland), concentrating on Dublin as that’s where I was, and within 2 years, there was a fabulous crowd meeting on a regular basis, often getting very drunk in the process!

At the time the “Conventions” were only being held in the US, but the non-US people still wanted to meet up, so the “Unconventions” (i.e. “not-the-convention”) happened.

By the time I came back to the UK in 2006, I had already attended one “Unconvention” in Birmingham (2005?) and had met many of the bookcrossers that I had only communicated with on the forums. The Birmingham Bookcrossers allowed me to have a group of “ready made” friends which allowed me to settle back into the UK.   It’s also allowed us to support local independent coffee shops along the way, where they have allowed us to set up bookshelves (OBCZs) for the safe storage and exchange of books. As with many of the active local groups, there are monthly meetings held around the city, and we are currently meeting in 3threes in Martineau Place, Birmingham.

With approx 1700 books registered, and more released, I’m not the top of the list in terms of registering, capturing and releasing, but also not at the bottom. I have too many books for me to realistically pick up any more at any of the monthly meetings, but I do try and bring new books into the mix, to make sure there is something different.

I have been to a couple of Unconventions in the UK (couple in Birmingham, one in Leeds, and the Convention in London), but haven’t madeBook Buffet Table it to all. Often, by the time I got to find out I could go, it was too late to sign up.  However, I’ve managed to arrange to have the time off for the 2016 Uncon that’s happening in Birmingham this weekend. There are people coming from the UK, Ireland and Western Europe, many of whom I’ve met before and some that I haven’t!  

We have a number of local authors giving talks, as well as plenty of games (usually book related, naturally), goodie bags etc.

One of the things that happens is the “book buffet” table (see right), where the bookcrossers bring some/all of their available books, lay them out, and then the other attendees pick up the books that they fancy reading. Those that are left have, traditionally, been released on the Sunday during release walks, but as we are meeting the week before the Conservative Party convention, we wont be doing it this year, and will be using alternative arrangements.

If you want to know more about bookcrossing, or find out about a local group, there are a number of ways:

  • Go to Bookcrossing itself, and go to the forums
  • You can also find the official Bookcrossing group on Facebook.
  • If you are in the UK, there is a Bookcrossing UK public group on Facebook that you can join
  • If you are in Birmingham, there is a BCBrum group on Facebook (I cant find the public group link ATM, sorry).