Bookmakers I'd heard of. Bookbinders. Book-burning. But bookcrossing?
Does it involve hockey sticks?
That's what I was wondering before I spent yesterday researching used children's books.
Our grandparents wouldn't believe it
Heck, I can barely believe it. I doubt Einstein could have imagined the ingenuity people have put into getting cheap children's books.
You've already heard about ebay and Amazon Marketplace. They're old news. If you're wondering whether they're good options for buying children's books on the cheap, they definitely can be.
Check out my Used Children's Books page.
But bookcrossing is a whole new animal, and it doesn't involve purchasing. No multinational companies, no independent booksellers involved.
Just book consumers, i.e. readers, having a good time.
It's a hobby. Heck, for these people it's practically a sport. And even if it weren't a great way to score fresh kids' books, I would still recommend it as a stunning opportunity to impart to your child the importance of reading and the joy it can inspire.
If you're committed to building your child's lifelong love of reading, this is a heck of a place to start.
What bookcrossing is
At its core is the notion that books are best enjoyed when shared. Bookcrossers want to share the joy they get from reading. So when they finish with a book, they're not done. They think part of their jobs as readers is to get the book to someone else so they can read it.
And they get pretty darn creative in how they do it. They can:
Releasing into the wild is just what it sounds like. You leave the book somewhere (anywhwere) for someone (anyone) to pick up.
A controlled release is when you give it to someone in particular.
A bookray is when you form a list of people who will each have the book given to them in order, when the person ahead of them in line is finished.
A book ring is... Heck, I don't even know. Maybe it's a bookray where the book ends up in the hands of the original buyer!
What it comes down to is books are always being read or on their way to someone else for the next read!
There's more to it, but I don't want to delay you checking out the site. Once you do, though, please come back and let's talk about how bookcrossing applies to kids' books.
A few more bookcrossing facts
The word bookcrossing now appears in some dictionaries. The site bills itself as the world's largest book club, and it looks to be just that.
You read a book. Then, just before you release it, you register it. That means you attach a label to it identifying it as a Bookcrossing.com book. You also make an online journal entry about the book.
Hopefully, the person who gets the book next takes heed of the Bookcrossing.com label and goes to the site. There they find the book listing, along with its history. In other words, they meet you, via your journal entry, along with the readers who came before you, if any.
Children's bookcrossing - Let's apply this to kids and kids' books
You and your child have read a favorite picture book fifty times, but now your child is burned out on it.
You give the book a final read, then you register it and journal it and release it (and other books you're done with) to the wild.
You move on to newer children's books. Then one day you receive an email that one of your releases has been "caught."
(That means not only did someone find the book, they went to the site. Bookcrossing.com says the "catch" rate is 20-25% and rising.)
You and your child go online. You read the journal entry from the people who caught your book and benefited from your generosity.
A connection is made. Your child has something of a pen pal, along with a heck of a lot of confirmation of what you've been trying to tell him (or her) all along: that books are important. Not just to your family but to other families too!
We try to teach our children about the larger world around them
Reading is one way. Bookcrossing can enrich it. Your child can make connections with other readers, write book reports, act with generosity, maybe even learn something about geograpy as the book makes its rounds.
And imagine the excitement when your child "catches" a book! Because catches don't have to be random, they can be arranged with the help of the Bookcrossing community.
I just went online to try to browse the children's book listings at Bookcrossing
The Browse page had crashed. It's been down at least a week. See, I'm writing this on May 11, 2006. Bookcrossing logged its 3 millionth book on May 7th, four days ago.
(I think it's fair to assume there will be a goodly number of kids' books listed.)
Right now, as I'm writing this, they're at 3,014,764 total books. That's nearly 15,000 books added in 4 days. Talk about explosive growth!
In fact, in the five hours since I started writing this, Bookcrossing went from 465,510 members to 465,585. 75 new members while I wrote and played racketball. Their membership is worldwide and multilingual.
The ways in which you can use children's bookcrossing to power your child's love of reading and learning seem endless
In fact, people are becoming so fanatic about the whole bookcrossing thing that conventions are occurring and local groups are forming. Bookcrossing is a social phenomenon, not just a reading one.
In fact, try this. Go to
Use the dropdowns to choose your country and city. There's an excellent chance that a bunch of Bookcrossers get together in your town. I'm proud to report that the two smallish cities where I've spent the last 20 years of my life have two of the largest Bookcrossing groups!
Needless to say, Bookcrossers are primarily grown-ups but the children's and children's books aspects of all this are obvious. In fact, I'd be happy to wager that, before too long, someone puts up a site along the lines of childrens-bookcrossing.com
Why wouldn't they? Bookcrossing.com is one of the most popular sites on the web!
Use Bookcrossing to help impart the importance of reading
Remember, it's important not only to read to your young child and to provide books, it's important for your child to see you reading as well.
Lots of people are using bookcrossing to make reading, as my daughter would say, "even funner."
Another ingenious way to trade children's books
I think I got so excited about bookcrossing that I underemphasized one of its uses - getting used children's books cheap. Now let me tell you about a website that puts the emphasis on the swapping more than the social.
PaperbackSwap.com began in 2004 and is up to 578,000 listed books as of this date (June 27th) in 2006. Here's how it works.
Join PaperbackSwap. Post 9 or more books that you'd be willing to part with. (They don't even have to be paperbacks.) You've now earned three free credits. That means you can find three books you want, and the people who listed them have to send them to you. At their expense.
Of course, when people want your books, you have to send them. That's how you accrue more credits. It's a perfect barter system.
$1.59 a book
That's the average price to send a book at the Postal Service's Media Mail rate. So you're getting new (to you at least) books at less than 2 bucks a pop.
The exact book you wanted. Not a potluck book. Isn't that amazing?
Browse Children's Books and you'll find 19 separate categories. In each category are 100s of books.
The Cat In The Hat and Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone are both available as I write this. (The first two kids' books I looked for.)
All I have to do is hit the Order button and their owners will up and mail them to me. For free.
Isn't mailing a hassle?
Not as far as I can tell. You even print out the book wrap and the mailing label from your printer.
That's right: computer paper comprises your "envelope."
So are we sticking it to the big book publishers and booksellers or what!
I hope you're as excited by these children's bookcrossing and booksharing options as I am
And if you want still more ideas for getting hold of cheap children's books, check out my
Best Children's Books - Find, Read or Write home page.