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The Media

Free as in Books? 142

donkeyDevil writes "Forget free software, contribute to free books! The Chronicle has an interesting story about bookcrossing.com's effort to track feral books through their captors. Read about it, then do it. (Although the focus of the story is on Bay Arean book releasors, it looks like you'd have a better chance of snagging a free book here.)"
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Free as in Books?

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  • by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @06:53AM (#3799714)
    ... has been going on for a long time making out-of-copyright works available to the public.

    Here you have it: Project Guttenberg [promo.net]
  • I wonder if anyone has thought to do the same with CDs :)
  • Astroturfing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @07:00AM (#3799733)
    How long before this is hijacked by publishers to promote novels in a fake "grass roots" caompaign? Maybe they'd just release a teaser version missing the last 10 pages or something.
    • sure, and how long before those last 10 pages are scanned, OCR'ed and put online too.. Just to tease back..

      (or does that make OCR fall under the DCMA? ;)
    • Browsing around, and they have a geographic area called "World Wide Web". Sure enough, amazon is already whoring the service.
      • It is not a Amazon.com site... idiot. Is is made by the proprietors of Humankind Software... idiot. Slashdot uses the online bookseller links for books it reviews and it is not whoring itself for that bookseller; it is called using an affiliate program... check into it, idiot.

        Do you people actually read?!? Obviously not! They have links to abebooks.com as well

    • Don't give them any ideas!
    • Ten pages wouldn't do it. Would you drop another seven bucks for ten pages? Uh uh. What people would do then is read the book, then go over to the bookstore and read the last ten pages there. It only takes a couple of minutes, and looks like ordinary browsing. Also, for a lot of books, the last ten pages if past the most exciting part, and are just there to say that everything turned out A-OK.
  • by phunhippy ( 86447 ) <{zavoid} {at} {gmail.com}> on Monday July 01, 2002 @07:06AM (#3799752) Journal
    I thought about some how starting sumthing like this while traveling abroad, I would stop at many hostels and read whatever books were laying around or swap one i had for one there. I always wondered how far certain books had gone or where they had come from.

    But on another note.. tagging the book's with ID's!! thats horrible! don't the books have a right to not just be a #!!! maybe they wanna have words identify themselves ;)

    • Wouldn't it be great if we could encourage motels, cafe's and other public places to put up bookshelves for this kind of thing. You could leave your book in a "public bookshelf" and look for other ones there. Maybe a chain of motels / cafes etc would be interested in promoting the idea

      Well at least where I'm from books have a title too :). The number is just to identify that particular copy of a book, I don't think the book will be too hurt, after all it gets to meet new people on an exiting journey

      • They already do..

        The hotel chain "Country Inn Suites" already does this. I really don't get the excitement of swapping books with the promise of leaving them for someone else. My God its almost like a fuckin' library. Imagine a nice cool & quiet place to sit in the middle of the summer and read for FREE! Jesus Christ, /.'ers are somewhat above average in intelligence, but this type of reaction is scarey. PLEASE..PLEASE go rediscover your local library before the gov't decideds to close them!
        • I think a lot of the exitement is in that it's not the goverments that get to decide what books that gets shared, its us. I think slashdot has more than it's fair share of anarchist tendencies

          Another thing I like about the idea is that I get to introduce people to the books i read that might not read them otherwise.

          And if I found a book I might have a go at it even if it's not what I normally read. Libraries are great to, but I usually end up with the type of book I usually read.

  • When I read the article, I thought "this is a great idea, but I bet it's only happening in big cities in the USA." Then I saw that some guy has "released" four books in Stevenage, [bookcrossing.com] Herts, England, not twenty miles from me. Hurrah!

    But you don't have to go outside to find free books. Check the link in my sig for one.

  • Great Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hellkitten ( 574820 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @07:27AM (#3799813)

    The problem is that I want to keep the really good books so that I can read them again. If everybody else does this there'll be only bad books floating around

    Hopefully tastes differ enough that someone will love a book that I dont, and it can have a good home. And when I read a great book in paperback I often buy a hardback copy to keep since it'll last longer, I think I'll start releasing those paperbacks. That way I can still reread the books I love, and give someone else the chance to discover them

    • I was checking out the site, and in the comments section, someone had mentioned that they released a copy of Cannery Row. Someone else posted that they went out and bought extra copies of their favorite books just to release them.

      Now true, this might be a good way to get rid of some of your junk sale books, but it seems some folks are having better ideas :)

      Apple hardware still too expensive for you? How about a raffle ticket? [macraffle.com]
      Let "them" know you're not a terrorist! [cafepress.com]
    • The problem is that I want to keep the really good books so that I can read them again. If everybody else does this there'll be only bad books floating around

      Yes, the old problem of adverse selection strikes again, and the best of best may not circulate as much. But then again, really bad books are much less likely to be bought in the first place.

  • I had to look and see what's in my area, and I'll admit, there is an impulse to walk the short walk to the "Donkey Xote" statue and see if George Stephanopolous' book is there, even though I have no desire to read it. Then I looked at how many books were left on metro, at park benches, etc., and I started to wonder how many books are going to end up being found versus thrown away. I suppose there are more than a few heathens out there who throw their books away already, and there are probably books that don't deserve the paper their printed on. But, it is vaguely depressing to think of a bunch of books getting thrown out. On the other hand, it is pretty harmless fun, so why get all curmudgeonly about it?
    • There are ALOT of books that deserve to be thrown away or even burnt...

      Here [barnesandnoble.com] is a few examples of what is called a waste of a renewable resource.

      In fact, I have seen behind the local Dollar store cases of "Business at the speed of thought" in the dumpster.... People wouldn't even buy it for $1.00..

      Just because it was published and bound in a nice hardcover DOES NOT mean that it is literature, let alone GOOD literature... there are thousands of books published yearly that are pure and utter crap.
    • I love books, and I can't bear to see them destroyed or thrown away. However, on 2 occasions I purposely threw away books because they were so awful It would have pained my conscience to leave them around for others to read. (In case you're wondering, the books were Kiss the Girls by James Patterson - reads like a post from alt.sex - and Southern Cross by Patricia Cornwell - physically painful to read if you know anything about the Internet, I couldn't finish it.)
  • by cetan ( 61150 )
    This seems to just be Where's George [wheresgeorge.com] for books.

    Neat idea though. Now, if they could combine GeoCaching [geocaching.com] with this I think we'd have something: exercise, travel, and good literature!
  • by GothChip ( 123005 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @07:50AM (#3799866) Homepage
    Think about it. Buy a chart CD and then register it on a site and release it. Persuade people to listen to it and then pass it on (Remember kids, copying is bad).

    Everyone can then listen to the latest CDs without having to buy them first.

    Then sit back and wait to see how long it will be before the RIAA makes giving away your personal property illegal.
  • by Monoman ( 8745 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @07:56AM (#3799878) Homepage
    People look for books in the library not on park benches and in seat backs.

    Talk to the folks at your local Libary and give your books to them. I might be missing something but I think there would be better results working with your local libraries.

    Then again, maybe not. :-)

    • But here's the thing - the advantage of this approach is that it exposes people to new literature that they might not look for in the library. Usually in the library I head towards the classics and/or science fiction; but if I happened across a book on a bus, I might read something that I never would have picked up otherwise.

      Also, the library will only want to stock so many copies of a book due to limited shelf space; this way gets more copies out into the reading population.

      Or so it would seem to me; I've never actually come across one of these books myself but I'll keep my eye out for them now :)

    • Then again, maybe not. :-)

      Exactly.. I called my local library [lmt.org] to see if they would take some computer books. They would only take the books if their copyright date was less than 2 years old!! I can't bring myself to throwing out the pile of books, but I'm afraid I'm going to just add to the lost and found at Amtrak's 30th Street Station [30thstreetstation.com].
    • I doubt the libraries want your dirty, stinky books. Have you ever seen a library out of money?

      Seriously though, and I've posted here on similar topics before -- I work for an educational institution. Sometimes, a corporation wants to ditch some piece of equipment on us for a tax writeoff. Once in a while, it's useful, but some people think we want old computers.

      No, we do not want old computers. Maybe Podunk U. wants old computers, but it's silly to think we'll be training tomorrow's workforce on yesterday's computers.

      Give us cash. Keep your junk.

      I would guess libraries feel the same.

    • by GMFTatsujin ( 239569 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @11:48AM (#3800821) Homepage
      ... and how's your local library doing these days? Aside from getting slapped with censorware, protested for containing dangerous books like Harry Potter, and generally going broke, my local branch is just ducky.

      The charm of this kind of project is that you find it where you least expect it. It's spontanious, requires no forethought on your account, and exposes you to literature you might not have considered picking up, or even looking for, in a library. It gets around the problem of indexed systems (libraries included), which is that you have to know what you're looking for in order to find it.

      Plus, this is about sharing information with anybody, anytime, anywhere, for no reason whatsoever expect that somebody thought it was worthwhile and that other people might enjoy it.

      That sounds almost noble, to me.
    • If you donate your books to the library, be aware that they will probably be sold in the library booksale rather than placed on the shelves (not that that's a bad thing, I do it myself).

      How about put a bookcrossing sticker in it, and *then* donate it to the library? :-)

    • The problem with that is that the library wants the book back. It forever belongs to the library. We want the book to travel, to be read by people, to be kept and cherished by one who has been touched, and re-read many times.
  • by goingware ( 85213 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @08:07AM (#3799896) Homepage
    You can find quite a few books that are published under a variety of licenses such as the GNU Free Documentation License at The Assayer [theassayer.org].

    The most popular subjects [theassayer.org] there are "Science, Math and Computing" with 289 titles. There are quite a few other subjects covered there too.

    The Assayer is more than just a list of books though - it has reader-contributed reviews. For example, here is the entry for DocBook: The Definitive Guide [theassayer.org] by Norman Walsh (available at www.docbook.org [docbook.org]). There is a review at the bottom of the entry page.

    I'm writing a Free book, although it is at a very early draft stage. The ZooLib Cookbook [goingware.com] is a tutorial for the ZooLib [sourceforge.net] cross-platform application framework.

    I'm also slowly creating a copylefted collection of articles on software quality [sunsite.dk] at the Linux Quality Database [sunsite.dk].

  • This is a great idea, but I couldn't find a request page for someone to leave some of the books on my reading list somewhere near my home
  • on the island of Grand Cayman at the Spanish Bay Reef Resort. They have a bookcase euphemistically called 'the library' where guests can borrow/take/leave books. Many people leave inscriptions on the inner covers telling who they are and where they're from. It's odd to pick up a few books and realize that they're each in a different language. In case you're not the literary type, SBR is a laid-back, all-inclusive diver's paradise!

    • Various Metra (city train) stops in the Chicagoland area have free (beer) books available ... paperbacks, mostly romance crap, but every once in a while a particularly interesting sci-fi novel sneaks in.

      The books are generally donated by the local library and would likely have been thrown out otherwise, but it is still a start ... gratis reading material for those who forgot their paper.
    • Not to reply to myself 8-), but it's also very popular at "Ashland Coffee and Tea" (in Ashland, Va, self-proclaimed "Center of the Universe" and home of Randolph-Macon College). There's been a huge set of bookshelves there for years. Their motto: "Take a book, leave two."

  • C'mon people (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @08:45AM (#3800004) Homepage Journal
    Sharing books a threat to privacy?

    Ideology is fine and good,but when it starts seeing threats in every innocuous thing it crosses the line to paranoia.

    It's not like the books have little GPS receivers and glom onto unsuspecting and unwilling people to transmit their reading habits to big brother. It's just a way for people to say "thank you" to a the chain of kind-hearted souls who released and rereleased the books before them, by making the good results of their actions visible.
  • by Knile ( 18599 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @09:53AM (#3800057)

    Check out the Book Thing of Baltimore [bookthing.org] if you're around Charm City some weekend. Russell just gives away books. You show up to the "free book place" and take as many as you want. The minimum is ten (he really won't let you leave) and the maximum is 150,000 books per person per day. Corner of 27th & N Charles St, look for the Free Books signs. Open Saturday & Sunday 9 AM - 6 PM.

    This isn't an ad, but honestly a post from someone who knows & loves books -- especially those at the Book Thing. I was turned on by a friend, and I've introduced my friends and so on. Probably 95% of the books I've gotten in the past two years were from the Book Thing.

    No really, they're free

  • Time in circulation? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by graibeard ( 220988 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @09:56AM (#3800068) Homepage
    It's surprising just how long books can stay in circulation.

    20 odd years ago I sold a large part of my Moorcock "Eternal Champion" Series to a local 2nd handbook dealer. Last year my son discovers those I hadn't flogged of and decides he likes them enough to pursue the series.
    He sets off for the 2nd hand bookstores in the next suburb and turns up several of the originals I sold - my name in the cover removes all doubt.

    Approximately 20 years in circulation, all within a couple of suburbs radius. The original bookshop has long gone - (Cory & Collins in Melb, Aust., they were good for Sci-Fi)

    So draw your own conclusions but I still find it amazing, believable only because it was first hand experience.
  • Trip books (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mikewas ( 119762 )
    I've often bought inexpensive books from the remainder bin before or during a trip. I've lost books that I really want to keep, and generally want something entertaining to offset work, so this works well.

    On the way home I usually give the volume away or just leave it. It might be interesting to see who finds the books I just leave, and this'd be a great way to keep in contact with folks -- like the lovely young lady that I shared a seat with recently. A great flight, had a wonderful time, and we traded SF volumes as we got off in Philly.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In my town, we have something like this, too. It's called ... the library [buffalolib.org].

    Not only that, but you can also get free cd's, video's, training and other good stuff.

    I'm so relieved that those modern folks in california have invented something so wonderfully original that nobody has even come up with anything remotely related to this concept. Just like the way they invented sex.

  • by cygnusx ( 193092 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @11:13AM (#3800570) Homepage
    This site is similar in spirit, run by one man: www.booklend.net

  • For those who enjoy this kind of thing, there's also the Where's George [wheresgeorge.com] site that let's you track where your money goes.
  • by gdyas ( 240438 ) on Monday July 01, 2002 @11:54AM (#3800864) Homepage

    Jesus, watching the display of jaundiced and paranoiac viewpoints in this thread is enough to make me want to never read this forum again.

    This isn't a damn privacy rights thing. Nor is it about how people should be donating these books to libraries, or whether they should or shouldn't be tracking them, or if some publisher is going to game the system for nefarious means. It's just harmless fun -- an all-volunteer effort by a group of people who love to read.

    I mean, kick ass. Buona sera. I love it. More power to them. Can't some of you just revel in one of the wonders of the 'net without reaching for your tinfoil hats? Can't you just stop being critical asses long enough to see something that's really, truly good? Are you all that cynical?

    Maybe I should drop a copy of The Power of Positive Thinking in a comic book store somewhere and try to help one of you.

  • Making Friends (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LuYu ( 519260 )

    Boy, those greedy Authors Guild [authorsguild.org] bastards are going to love this one. Just imagine a whole world of people reading used books...... And not paying for them!!

    I wonder how long it will be before these bookcrossing [bookcrossing.com] people are accused of piracy for their philanthropy...

    It is also interesting to note that the greedy people in this case have a .org URL, while the philanthropists have a .com URL.

    • Those greedy authors guild bastards are called 'authors'. If you want to enjoy the creative fruits of someone else's mind, you'd better consider respecting the people who create books in the first place. Calling them greedy bastards is not a very good way to go about showing your respect...
  • by Vegan Pagan ( 251984 ) <[deanas] [at] [earthlink.net]> on Monday July 01, 2002 @12:19PM (#3801037)
    While we're waiting for Bookcrossing to share CDs and DVDs, you can already donate and borrow movies and music by the carload from your library. I donate every manga and anime I buy to the library.
  • Guerrilla tactics (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chaovsky ( 555174 )
    This article reminded me of something my buddies and I have been doing for some time.. We will buy a book (normally a "subversive" of thought-provoking one) and paste a piece of paper inside which reads something like "This book has been given to you as a gift, but you can't keep it. When you finish reading it, you must give it away to somebody else so information can keep flowing". Then we give the book to someone, or leave it at a public place. Thus we don't infringe any laws, because giving away your own purchased stuff as a gift is perfectly legal, and many people can benefit from a single book. Besides, we find it quite inspiring.. ;)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    one thousand blank journals are traveling from hand to hand through the world http://www.1000journals.com/

    i'm addicted now ;)

  • I am surprised this works - at least in the uk. I have to my unending dismay occasionally left a book in a public place (wall near a bus stop, phone booth, that sort of thing - places you put something down to use your hands and forget to pick it up again) and have seldom returned to find it either there or "just gone". almost invariably, it has been ripped apart and the pages strewn over a wide area (I must assume by kids; I am sure at least some of them would be dismayed to find they could have gotten upwards of 20ukp for one of them in any decent bookshop)
    if this was some sort of geocaching (put somewhere where it would be awkward to discover without explicit finding instructions) then I can see it working, but not where kids could find it.
  • NPR (Score:2, Informative)

    by sphynxdra ( 589498 )
    NPR [npr.org] did this story almost two months ago on it's "Weekend Edition Saturday" [npr.org] show. They've set up a web page [npr.org] with expanded coverage, and the site also includes the audio from the broadcast Real Audio Format.
  • Abby Hoffman's _Steal This Book_.

    Heck, can you find a copy of this book _anywhrere_?

  • On a related note to this story, I compiled a list of free technical books from a slashdot thread a few weeks ago:

    http://www.bath.ac.uk/~cs1spw/blog/archive/2002/06 / 9/#freeBooks [bath.ac.uk]

  • How about these? [google.com]


Fear is the greatest salesman. -- Robert Klein