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Happy New Year with BookCrossing

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With BookCrossing founder Ron Hornbaker and BookCrossers Steve Lucas, Vikki Thompson, and Clive Wright


Ron Hornbaker, left. Steve Lucas, middle. Clive Wright, right.

Vikki Thompson


In August 2004, a new word was added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary: “bookcrossing.” Bookcrossing is the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.

For Ron Hornbaker, who had conceived of and launched BookCrossing in just one month in 2001, the addition was the gift of a lifetime.

BookCrossing is a lively community of more than half a million book lovers who release books into the wild to be found by others. The site’s goal is to make the whole world a library.

This New Year’s, we celebrate BookCrossing with founder Ron Hornbaker and three BookCrossers, including an author who has released his own books into the wild.

Looking for a break from the doldrums of creating yet another e-commerce Web site or email server application, Ron Hornbaker sought to create a community site that would be the first of its kind, that would give back to the world at large, and that would provide warm fuzzy feelings whenever he worked on it. was the result.

The idea came to Ron back in March of 2001, as he and his wife Kaori were admiring the site, which tracks disposable cameras loosed into the wild. He already knew about the popularity of (which tracks U.S. currency by serial number), and that got him thinking: what other physical object might people enjoy tracking? A few minutes later, after a glance at his full bookshelf, the idea of tracking books occurred to him. After two hours of research on the Internet, Ron realized, to his surprise, that nothing like BookCrossing had been done on any significant scale. And so they went to work. By 3 a.m. that night, they had decided on the name and registered the domain, and Kaori had sketched the running book logo on a crossing sign. The rest was merely execution.

After getting the green light from his partners in the software company, Ron went to work programming the site from scratch the next day, and about four mostly sleepless weeks later, on April 17, 2001, was launched with a simple $500 press release, the last time money has been spent promoting the site. Members trickled in at the rate of 100 or so per month until March of 2002 when a Book magazine article was published. Since then, BookCrossing has been the focus of countless TV, radio, and newspaper features around the world, gets about 300 new members every day, and has its own category in the human-edited Google Directory.

Fifty-six years into a lifelong love affair with books and reading, Steve Lucas denies the rumour that he moved his software business to Stratford upon Avon just to be near Shakespeare’s birthplace. The fact that his office window looks out over the garden at said birthplace is merely serendipity.

Steve is an avid reader of almost every genre; his list of favourite authors ranges from Tom Holt and Christopher Moore to Umberto Eco and Orhan Pamuk. Married for 30 years to the only woman he suspects would put up with his book habit, he still sometimes finds the need to smuggle in his latest purchases under cover of darkness. He joined BookCrossing as soon as he heard of it in what now transpires to be a fruitless attempt at giving away his books, and in fact now buys even more books based upon recommendations of other members. Steve needs a larger house!

Vikki Thompson’s book collection is pretty ecclectic. She will read anything but is not a fan of fantasy, science fiction or detective type books. Her faves are Fay Weldon, Susan Hill, and Anita Shreve. For her birthday in May she got a copy of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, so she’s making her way through some of the classics. Her BookCrossing bookshelf doesn’t really represent her tastes though, as a lot of her books are just for wild releasing. She’s a huge cookery book fan, and does tend to hoard them. She donates a lot of stuff to charity shops, as a lot of the books she gets hold of are quite old or really specialized, such as the recently discovered Feeding Cattle from the 1960’s.

Clive Wright was born in England in North London and raised in the countryside. The parts of his life not taken up with work includes motorcycles, music and, of course, the rabid devouring of many, many books. Cold Ghost is his first novel. He is currently seeking an agent.

Join us for this exciting celebration of books and booklovers as Ron, Steve, Vikki, and Clive discuss:

  • What BookCrossing is
  • How it came about
  • How it works
  • What places are best and worst for releasing books
  • What types of released books are the most popular
  • What some of the strangest release locations are
  • How long books travel
  • What proportion of released books end up being caught
  • How Clive has fared releasing his own books, and what he’s learned in the process
  • What cool things you can do with BookCrossing.

Interviewees: Ron Hornbaker, Steve Lucas, Vikki Thompson, and Clive Wright
Host: Paula B.
Date: January 1, 2007
Running time: 57:19
File size: 42 megabytes
Rating: G
The BookCrossing Web site:
Clive Wright’s Web site: