The Book-Labelling Production Line

A couple of weeks ago, Lyttletonwitch, who is New Zealand’s most active Bookcrosser (she’s registered an amazing 3,682 books, and released 2,785 of them!), offered me a couple of bags of random books that she was clearing out of her garage (she gets a lot of her books for free – they’re normally ones that have been donated to charity shops, but they either don’t have the storage & display space for, or aren’t in saleable condition (but with just a little bit of effort can be repaired), so the charity shops are happy for her to take them off their hands – as a result, she’s got boxes full of books cluttering her garage). She didn’t have time to register and release them all herself, so wondered if I’d like some. Of course, I jumped at the chance (Bookcrosser’s rule #1: never turn down free books), and have been working my way through the bags over the past week or so, slowly registering all the books.

The actual registration process doesn’t take all that long – in theory all you do is enter the ISBN into the Bookcrossing book registration page, which then searches the Amazon.com database for the book details (and sometimes even a cover picture). Of course, if that edition of the book isn’t available on Amazon.com (which is unfortunately common for non-US published books), then it won’t work, but if that happens you can always enter the details of title, author, etc yourself (although there is a neat little work-around if you really want the cover picture to show up: you go to Amazon.com and search for an American edition with the same cover, and copy the ISBN they have listed – et voila! instant cover picture on your book’s journal). You can then write the books’ first journal entry. If you’ve actually read the book, then this is your opportunity to write a review of it, but what if you haven’t read it? Well, it’s up to you. Some people like to type out the blurb from the back of the book, others copy and paste Amazon’s description, whereas I usually just say where I got the book from – I think it’s interesting to include what I know of the book’s pre-Bookcrossing history, especially if there’s an interesting bookplate or inscription in the front of the book. Once you’ve done all that (which really isn’t the long process I’m making it sound – once you get in the swing of things, it only takes about a minute per book), the Bookcrossing database generates a BCID for your book.

Just like writing the first journal entry, every Bookcrosser has their own style for labelling their books. I like to get the Bookcrossing URL and the BCID in as many places as possible, so that it’s impossible to miss. There’s not much space around my computer for writing out labels (why is it that computer desks seem to attract more clutter than any other place in your house?), so if I’ve got a lot of books to register, I do my labelling in a two-step process. First, I register each book and write the BCID inside the back cover. Then, once I’ve got a pile of books registered, I take them all through to the table, where I can work more comfortably (and watch TV at the same time!), and begin labelling. If the book needs any repairs, I’ll patch it up (my partner, MrPloppy, used to work in a library, so I’ve learnt lots of helpful book repair techniques from him) I copy the BCID from the back cover onto a label (I use the pre-printed labels from the supply store when I can afford them, otherwise I print my own), and add the date. Then I use my Bookcrossing stamp (also purchased from the supply store, but you could probably get one made up yourself with the Bookcrossing URL) and stamp the inside back cover under the BCID, and also stamp a couple of the inside pages (the white space at the end of a chapter is a good place), and write the BCID beside the stamp. This might seem like overkill, but I want to make sure that if the cover gets ripped off or something, then the BCID isn’t lost. Finally, I stick the label inside the front cover, and stick a little sticker saying “Free book – look inside” on the front cover (I designed these stickers myself, and usually print them onto coloured stickers so they show up well against the cover). And then I’m done.

Of course, you don’t need to go to such extreme lengths to label your books – many people are just content to write the BCID and a short note inside the front cover. But I want my books to go out into the world with as much chance as possible that I’ll hear back from them, and all the extra labelling does seem to help their chances of being caught and journalled.