April 7, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 99  

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It’s better than littering: book-dropping program promotes literacy

By Dan Perry
Gazette Staff

If you find someone else’s books on campus, don’t take them to the lost and found without giving them a good second look — that someone may not want them back.

About 50 books have been set free in London, specially tagged and registered at www.bookcrossing.com, and are waiting in various locations to be found, said London Public Library’s Westmount branch supervisor Alastair Neely.

“I thought this was kind of a neat thing to do,” he said. “I think it improves literacy and allows people to have fun.

Neely said he set some books free at several Tim Hortons and Krispy Kremes in London. “I felt guilty just walking in and leaving books on their counters,” he said. Books were also released in bus shelters, grocery stores and at the London International Airport, he added.

The BookCrossing website has been operating since April 2001, said founder and editor Ron Hornbaker, and started out with only about 1,000 members.

“We’ve been very lucky,” he said. “We haven’t spent a dime on marketing; the press has come to us.” Hornbaker explained that membership has climbed by 100,000 in the site’s second year, a number that has now reached 230,000.

“It’s not really that easy to release a book,” Hornbaker said. “People keep trying to return it. People won’t even pick up something if they think someone’s coming right back for it.”

He noted the site’s membership is very diverse: the program has infiltrated 130 countries, 30 per cent of which are non-English speaking.

When a user finds a book, they can log onto the website and register the location where the book was found, along with their thoughts. “The people we attract are really passionate readers and love to talk about books,” he added.

“Of course, we encourage people to re-release the books,” Hornbaker said.

“There’s quite a few [books] that have been released at Western,” Neely said, adding interested students should log on to the website to find out where to look. “One of our books has already been found,” he added.

“I think it’s kind of neat,” said fourth-year health sciences student Brienne Lowey. “I like to read, [so] that’d be fun to find a book.”

“The idea seems interesting, but I don’t think it will have a big impact on students. [Books] to do with arts, science fiction have a better chance than something scientific,” said third-year electrical engineering student Ammar Naji.



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