EDitorial ± 19-Aug-2003

Novel Idea

It had to be Sunday August 17th at sunset, said the instructions, outside "the largest newspaper office near you". Blind follower that I am, there I was at precisely the appointed time, 20:18, skulking around in front of the Evening Star's premises in downtown Ipswich. And in my hand was a book – Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture Of Dorian Gray – in a clear plastic bag.

Oh, there's more to life than books, you know
But not much more, not much more
— The Smiths, Handsome Devil

Had to wait a few minutes for assorted cars and pedestrians to pass before completing my task: to leave my book-in-the-bag hanging on a railing opposite the hacks' entrance. A handwritten note on the cover, FREE TO A GOOD HOME!, tried to make things clear, and inside was the unique ID code allocated by BookCrossing. I'd made it to step 3 as dictated on their website:

  1. read a good book
  2. register it on their site
  3. release it for someone else to read

When we are happy we are always good, but when we are good we are not always happy: I wish I had said that, Oscar

Such a nifty notion, IMHO. Instead of gathering dust, you set a book free, anonymously, in the hope that a stranger will find it, take it home, and maybe read it themselves. Then, if so inclined, they can deposit it in another street, another town, another country.

According to the FAQ, only 20-25% of releases are "caught" at present. Joe Public is naturally suspicious of freebies and may choose to ignore or dump such a package. So, the very next day, I was chuffed in the utmost to receive an email directly from the site to say that mine had been found. I only know that the finder also hails from Ipswich – no surprise there – and wrote that this was "a superb idea". Lovely!

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Fact or fiction:

  • an Italian copy of the same book, Il ritratto di Dorian Gray, was set free in Bologna on Monday 18th
  • says Oscar, there is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book
  • keep your eyes peeled

Be seeing you!