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The Streets Of England Are The New Bookstores

Written by 23 September 2011 7 Comments

Imagine wandering the streets of your home city in England. Care-free, arms swinging, breezy cool autumn air on your cheeks as you meander through your local park/bus station/coffee shop/museum. And you come across a book.

Alone and just sitting there.

No owner sipping coffee, taking a break from the book they put down, no reader knelt beside it tying their shoelace. A lone book, waiting for a new owner.

Like you.
Sounds suspicious? The perfect bait for some random trap to humiliate if one bites and takes the book? No worries, as sometimes the world can actually be that innocently nice, and that book is genuinely there for your taking. The Guardian newspaper has launched a six week autumn book season by distributing 15,000 titles around England to be left in everyday places to be discovered and appreciated by passing readers. It’s a new form of recycling that enables people to share their favourite book with a stranger they’ll never meet and pass on their contribution to this treasure hunt of literature.


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Although this is a lovely and beautifully simple notion, it has been notched up a level by enabling social media forms to track books, almost giving the books their own little stories of their adventures around the country. A bookplate sticker can be printed off and inserted into the front cover with a message from the giver. Once the book has been found, the receiver can upload the details of where they left it (including a photograph of the book in its abandoned place) at Twitter (#guardianbookswap) and The Guardian website. There’s even a map that records books that have been left (red pins) and books that have been found (blue). Here are some step-by-step instructions in how to participate.
Already, my English friends have facebooked excited statuses of leaving their book somewhere for someone to perhaps notice it.

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All kinds of books will be circulated around the country chosen by both the public and published authors, from old classics to guilty pleasures, self-promotion to just a well-loved tale. This scheme will hopefully open peoples eyes to the variety of literature that exists outside the ‘Top ten books you have to read’ according to ‘Mr I-Know-Everything’. So in saying that, I’m hoping that it won’t turn into a mass book swap of various volumes from the ‘Twilight’ series.

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A charming idea that makes me long for England during its innovative and unique book swap. Who knows how long this could last? It could become a thing of legends and continue for years and years… All you U.K. dwellers: get involved! Who knows what you may find walking down the street today.…

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7 Comments »

  • Adam said:

    Love this concept! I remember using a website a few years ago with a similar concept (bookswap, I think?) but using social media to share books is a nice touch!

  • Katja said:

    doesnt this just make you want to lay books out on the streets of berlin, too? :)

  • nina said:

    I used bookcrossing for a while (maybe that’s what you mean, adam?) and I actually did a fictional project about this in design school (http://bit.ly/q9gzrG), but I agree, using social media to share books is even better!

  • adam said:

    yup – bookcrossing, that was the one!

  • Social Media Week in Berlin | Travels of Adam - Hipster travel around the world said:

    [...] and I love to see interesting things happening with it. (Check out this new trend in London: bookswaps through social media!)I also came away with a new Nokia E7 smartphone, but that’s another story.var [...]

  • Freddie Hallin said:

    “All mankind love a lover.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • Paul said:

    Fine – just wait for some muslim nut to plant a bomb in one and then you will have a city-wide scare and 15,000 potential bombs to find and dispose of.

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