Have you seen Bookcrossing? Imagine that you’re the type of person who collects books. Now, you might be like my friend Heather, who dedicates a significant amount of her domicile to not just storing her books, but storing them in an accessible format (Heather suffers from catalogers’ disease, like myself). However, maybe you can’t dedicate space for books. Or maybe you could in the past, but now you’ve got to move, or you’re turning the library into a nursery, or maybe you just looked around and said to yourself, “I can’t let people see me living like this, I don’t live in a house, I live in a used bookstore.”
Parting with a collection can be excruciatingly painful, because although they are just objects, they are objects that have an association with some sort of emotional meaning to the collector. Even the dreck in your collection (and every collector has some dreck at some point) has some value to you, because you associate it with memories of the collection itself. It’s a vicious cycle. How do you solve this problem?
Selling your books to a used bookstore or dumping them on eBay is one way to unburden yourself of the physical collection, but it’s so… mercenary. Also fairly lacking in gratification, as you’re usually not going to recoup anything resembling the cost of the collection, unless you’re a First Editioner (a separate disease we’ll discuss elsewhere someday). Donating your books to a library is somewhat traditional and worthwhile, of course, but you can’t maintain contact with your collection any longer. Is anyone reading them? Are they sitting alone, dusty, on a back shelf? At what point does the layer of dust indicate to someone that they ought to go out on the patio during the used book selloff? My God, may they be cursed to storage!??!
Enter Bookcrossing. Now, you can let the objects go, while keeping the collection (albeit in virtual form) forever! Moreover, you can EXPAND the emotional meaning, by letting other people contribute to it! Now it’s not just YOUR collection, it’s a social construct in and of itself! Nirvana! Delicious anticipation! Will someone pick up that copy of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat that you left at the bus stop? Will they be drawn into the Bookcrossing web? Wither shall it go, how many people will it touch? It’s like casting a message in a bottle, except instead of waiting for an unlikely single person to find your missive cast up on a sandy shore, you’re wondering how many people in our vast society will touch your book as it passes from hand to hand!
Of course, looking at Goodreads and Bookcrossing together, when you have cataloger’s disease, enters into a major dilemma -> what do I keep, and what do I cast upon the winds for an entirely new adventure?!?! OH NO, A NEW CATALOGING PROBLEM!