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Guardian encourages readers to swap books, potentially litter

The chances of anyone reading this not knowing by now may have passed slim-to-none some time ago, but just in case, consider this a public service announcement: as part of its autumn books season, this past Saturday saw The Guardian officially launch its own Book Swap, leaving thousands of books in various public places around the UK just waiting to be collected for free by eager readers, in what will prove to be either a tremendous act of collective altruism or the worst case of mass littering since the day after The Lost Symbol came out.

The principle of the thing is simple: pick a beloved book that you think others would enjoy reading. Print out a BookSwap sticker. Write on said sticker why you love said book. Stick said sticker onto said book. Go out into the world brandishing said book and leave it in a location calculated for maximum surprise and delight on the part of the person who discovers it, and maybe also stop saying ‘said’ so much while you’re at it. Then keep an eye out for books left by others who have done the same thing.

Of course, human beings are very much adept at finding ways to complicate ostensibly simple situations, so The Guardian has also drawn up a list of rules that you might think would go without saying, like ‘don’t leave it in book shops or libraries’ and the deliciously suggestive ‘don’t put yourself or the finder of the book at any risk’, which reads like they’re perhaps expecting something akin to Saw with books (note to self: pitch ‘Saw with books’ to any interested parties).

And of course, because even the most delightfully lo-fi means of acquiring literature in 2011 can’t take place without some level of digital crossover, bookswappers are also encouraged to post pictures of where they have deposited their books on Flickr, and geotag them in order to populate a BookSwap map. There is also, inevitably, a Twitter hashtag: #guardianbookswap is slowly turning everyone’s timeline into a less salacious (well, so far) Craigslist, with news of discoveries, deposits and requests coming in not just from the UK, but from all over the world.

So just so we’re all clear, the message here seems to be: show the world how much you love your favourite book – throw it out.


Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.

Comments (3)

    • Several commenters over at The Guardian’s site have already pointed this
      out, but their response has been vague – something along the lines of
      wanting to get people involved in their books season. In fairness to
      them, The Guardian is a much bigger platform for this sort of thing than
      Bookcrossing ever has been – it stands a far greater chance of taking
      off and taking hold of something approaching the zeitgeist. And it
      remains a good idea, if executed properly – just because someone has
      already done it doesn’t preclude others from doing it too, although admittedly it might have been good form for The Guardian to at least acknowledge the existence of outfits like Bookcrossing.

      • Apologies, I have no idea why that ended up formatted like a piece of blank verse – that wasn’t intended as some kind of response to your user name.

Comments are closed.

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